Traditional Music and Spoken Word Catalog
from the American Folklife Center
About the Catalog and Searchable Database
The audio recordings represented in the catalog were recorded between 1897 and 1962. The majority of these are lacquer and aluminum-based instantaneous disc recordings made between 1933 and 1950. The handful of collections that fall outside this date range is described at the end of this page.
The card catalog represented in this online database was first created by Work Projects Administration (WPA) workers in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and continued by the Archive of Folk Song (now part of the American Folklife Center) staff into the early 1960s. Its purpose was to provide the public with access to the thousands of individual songs, tunes, folk tales, sermons, monologues, and life stories in the Archive's collections.
Included are the seminal field recordings associated with John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax's Library of Congress collecting work (Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Jelly Roll Morton), and Alan Lomax's less well-known field collections in Haiti in 1936 to 1937 and in the upper Midwest of the United States in 1938. There are hundreds of well-known and lesser-known treasures by other notable collectors including Herbert Halpert, Zora Neale Hurston, Henrietta Yurchenco, Vance Randolph, and Helen Creighton, among many others. The catalog also reflects exchange projects with institutions outside the United States, notably the Discoteca Pública Municipal de São Paulo Collection (1938-1943) of field recordings from Brazil; and field recordings collected in Oceania. The researcher may encounter duplicate or multiple cards for some of the non-English recordings in this catalog. The researcher should also be aware that for some non-English recordings from this period, no cards were made. We hope to expand the catalog in the future and add the bibliographic data for the sound recordings that are now represented only as "Spanish" or "Foreign."
The physical card catalog in the Archive is searchable only by title, performer, state (if U.S.), shelflist number (AFS number), or country/language (other than English). The online version of the catalog searches these areas, plus recording dates, recordist's names, and many others. Our plans are to continue to increase access to individually recorded items in our collections and to grow this database beyond just the cards represented in this online catalog to other collections in the Archive.
Please note that this catalog represents only a portion of our recordings; in fact the majority of the Archive's recordings are not represented here. There is also information in the catalog that is incorrect and incomplete. We are continually working to make these corrections, and to add more material to the database. If you see an error please feel free to notify us with corrections. Contact us.
Collections in the catalog that fall outside the bulk date range
AFS 801-810: Ten discs of Walter McClintock's recordings of Blackfoot singers in Montana, recorded in 1898. These are disc copies of wax cylinders. The Archive later received the original cylinders which were duplicated onto AFS 20,237-20,239.
AFS 814-815: Two discs of Clark Wissler's recordings of Blackfoot singers in Montana, recorded in 1904. Originally recorded on wax cylinders.
AFS 4326-4412: Eighty-five discs of duplicates of wax cylinders in the Percy Grainger collection of English, Danish and Maori songs. Recorded primarily in 1906 and 1908.
AFS 9448-9467: Twenty discs of traditional songs of France and French Colonies donated by Phonothèque Nationale. Recorded between 1897-1948. Some originally recorded on wax cylinders.
AFS 10,089: One tape of songs sung by Jean Ritchie of Viper, Kentucky. Recorded at the Library of Congress by Herman Norwood, May 1951.
AFS 10,095: One tape of folk songs of North Carolina performed by Virgil Sturgill, folk singer of North Carolina, originally from Kentucky. Recorded at the Library of Congress, June 1951.
AFS 10,803-10,825: Twenty-three tapes of songs, fiddle tunes, and conversations from Arkansas. Recorded in 1951-52 by Irene Carlisle of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
AFS 10,943-10,967: Twenty-five tapes of Greek heroic poetry, folk tales, and folk songs collected by James A. Notopoulos, 1952-1953.
AFS 11,683-11,687: Five tapes of traditional folk, art, and popular music of Morocco. Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959-1962.
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