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Auld Acquaintance for the New Year: Burns’s Auld Lang Syne

As the Old Year turns to the New Year, thousands of people around the world will sing along to “Auld Lang Syne,” a Scottish song that has come to be firmly associated with New Year’s celebrations. The song has a fascinating history, and we’re lucky at the Library of Congress to have several unique items […]

St. George and the Data Dragon: A Digital Assets Mumming

St. George and the Data Dragon: A Digital Assets Mumming Performed by American Folklife Center Staff with Guests Script drawn from multiple plays in the James Madison Carpenter Collection. Compiled by Stephen Winick, with additional material by Stephen Winick, Jennifer Cutting, Theadocia Austen, Hope O’Keeffe, and the company. Digital assets jargon courtesy of Bertram Lyons.  […]

Mumming at the American Folklife Center

Every year, in the week before Christmas, staff members of the American Folklife Center put our research and performance skills into play, bringing collections to life in a dramatic performance that tours the halls of the Library of Congress.  Dressed in costumes that range from striking to silly, we sing, act, rhyme, and dance for […]

Songs of the Winter Season Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell

There are many examples of songs of the winter season available among the online presentations from the American Folklife Center’s archive, but the largest group of these is found in California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties, a documentary project of the California Work Projects Administration headed by Sidney Robertson Cowell from 1938 […]

Einstein’s Folklore

Albert Einstein, the physicist behind the Theory of General Relativity and other crucial theoretical advances of the 20th century, is often considered one of the greatest scientists of all time.  But did you know that he also liked folklore? At least, he did according to some commentators.  A direct quotation, often attributed to Einstein, runs: […]

Symposium sparks broad discussion of ethnographic archives

In the weeks since The American Folklife Center hosted the Cultural Heritage Archives Symposium at the Library of Congress, we have learned about several collaborations that developed at the event. Fellow panelists are now co-authoring an article, others are creating a consortial grant application, and attendees from the same city who first met at the symposium […]

Buttered Fresh Frozen Lima Beans: Commemorative Holiday Menus in the Veterans History Project

Chow, c-rations, MREs—no matter the form it takes or the name given to it, food is important in military life. Materials within the Veterans History Project (VHP) collections are peppered with culinary references: the monotony of military rations, the ache of hunger when food was scarce, and often the longing and anticipation for home-cooked meals […]

Indigenous American Cylinder Recordings and the American Folklife Center

As November is Native American Heritage Month, it seems a good opportunity to talk about some of the services the American Folklife Center provides for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, and for those who wish to learn more about them. The archival collections of the Library of Congress include the largest body of […]

Bill Stepp, Aaron Copland, and “Bonaparte’s Retreat”

Over the years since its founding in 1928 as the Archive of American Folk Song, the American Folklife Center archive has been explored by a wide range of artists seeking inspiration for their own works.  Through their creations, AFC archival materials have often found their way into popular culture.  From time to time on Folklife […]