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Treasures of the AFC Archive Banner #3

Banner3blogThis is the third in a series of six posts presenting AFC’s new traveling exhibit Treasures of the American Folklife Center Archive. The exhibit takes the form of lightweight, colorful vinyl banners containing information about AFC, the Library of Congress, and (as the title suggests) some of the treasures found in our archive.  Originally conceived of as part of our celebration of the Alan Lomax centennial, the banners were edited by me and Nancy Groce and designed by Stanley Bandong in the Library’s graphics unit.  The fabrication was coordinated by Theadocia Austen.

We’ll be putting the banners online, both so our blog readers can see them, and to go on the record with full credit for all the images, which didn’t fit in the banner format. Here, we’re pleased to present the second of the original six banners. To see what the banner itself looks like, see the picture to the right; just click to enlarge. Watch for the others in the coming weeks!

As before, we’re also providing the banner’s content, in a format that’s easier to see, below. The main text of the blog post is the text on the banner.  The photo captions are additional information just for this blog.

We’d also like to acknowledge that this banner’s title is an homage to John Szwed’s biography of Lomax, which is called Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World. Szwed came to AFC to talk about his book in 2010, and you can see a webcast of that talk here.  Since these banners present Lomax’s photography and manuscripts, and since we’ve been working on making his manuscripts and notes accessible (they’re now online here!), we wanted to stress that he also documented the world in other ways besides his precious sound recordings.

Alan Lomax: The Man Who

Documented the World

Lomax did his first field recording with his folklorist father, John Lomax, in 1933 using an Ediphone cylinder machine. Over the next seven decades, he collected extensively throughout the United States, Europe, North Africa, and the Caribbean. He was among the first to document such iconic folk singers as Lead Belly, Vera Ward Hall, Aunt Molly Jackson, Muddy Waters, Honeyboy Edwards, and Mississippi Fred McDowell. He was among the first folklorists to record Cajun music in Louisiana and ethnic music in the Midwest, and to pioneer recording “man-on-the-street” interviews.

Between 1950 and 1958 Lomax lived in England where he worked on influential series for Columbia and Tradition Records and radio programs for the BBC. He also collected widely in England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and other parts of Europe.

After returning to the U.S. he undertook his famous “Southern Journey” field trip of 1959-60, making the first stereo field recordings of blues, ballads, fiddle tunes, and gospel music. Selections were released on commercial labels, making them among the world’s most widely-known field recordings.

Lomax photographed the street musicians below in Caggiano, Campania, Italy, in 1955.


Musicians in Caggiano (Salerno), Italy, January 6, 1955. Photo by Alan Lomax. AFC Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004).

Lomax was one of the first fieldworkers to document Spanish traditions. He photographed the dancer below in Valencia, Spain, in 1952.


Dancer, Valencia, Spain, August 1952. Photo by Alan Lomax. AFC Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004).

Lomax’s 1962 Caribbean field trip produced enough material for 13 albums.


Alan Lomax and possibly Raphael Hurtault listening to playback, La Plaine, Saint Patrick (Dominica), June 25, 1962. Photo by Antoinette Marchand. AFC Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004).

Alan Lomax (right–with microphone) doing fieldwork with the legendary Scottish folklorist and songwriter Hamish Henderson (left–with tape deck), Edinburgh, Scotland, 1958.


Lomax with Hamish Henderson and others in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1958. Photographer unknown. AFC Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004).

Lomax first visited the Georgia Sea Islands in 1935 with folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. When he returned in 1960, he met dynamic source singer Bessie Jones (below), who performed with the influential Sea Island Singers.


Bessie Jones. on the set of “Music of Williamsburg” film, Williamsburg, Virginia, April 28, 1960. Photo by Alan Lomax. AFC Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004).

Lomax pioneered field recording in Italy. He recorded singers Luigi “Gi Fajo” Maccario and Gio Batta “Bacì Valeghia” Lantero in Baiardo, Liguria in 1954.


Lomax photographed these singers in the piazza of Baiardo, in the province of Imperia (region of Liguria), Italy, on October 10, 1954. AFC Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004).

American Folk Musician David Bromberg Donates His Papers to the Library of Congress

The following is a press release from the Library of Congress’s Office of Communications. Press contact: Jennifer Gavin (202) 707-1940 Public contact: Nancy Groce (202) 707-1744 American folk-music legend David Bromberg, a guitar and fiddle virtuoso who has become a renowned expert in rare violins, has donated papers pertaining to his musical career to the […]

Spooky Stories for Halloween

As some of our readers may remember, tomorrow is the second anniversary of Folklife Today, and our very first post was about Halloween.  Last year, we did a series of posts about collecting Halloween and Day of the Dead photos through a special hashtag.  You can see some of the results here and here and […]

The Poet Laureate Joins an AFC Workshop on Corridos

At AFC, we’re excited about the Library’s new Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, Juan Felipe Herrera. He’s a fascinating person and a great poet, and he has a deep interest in folk culture. All this led him to join an AFC workshop, and to perform the result during his inaugural reading this September.  We’d like […]

Lomax Kentucky Recordings Go Online

Note: this blog post makes liberal use of a press release devised jointly by the organizations involved in this project, and especially of the announcement made by Berea College. As part of AFC’s year-long celebration of Alan Lomax (1915-2002) during his centennial year, the American Folklife Center is thrilled to announce that The Lomax Kentucky […]

Rosanne Cash Curates a Carnegie Hall Exhibit with AFC

When Rosanne Cash, recognized by the Library as one of the most compelling figures in popular music, was asked to curate a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York, she graciously brought the American Folklife Center along for the ride. Cash asked AFC to help her curate a photo exhibit, which is being […]

Disabled, Yet Undeterred

I confess that, until joining the staff of the Veterans History Project (VHP) six years ago, I had not really given much thought to the plight of disabled veterans. Like most people, I had seen veterans with scars, burns and missing limbs, and probably unknowingly encountered many more with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but I […]

Collection Spotlight: Anthony D. Lopez

Due in part to the well-known HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, which profiled the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, the accomplishments and bravery of World War II paratroopers are well known. And deservedly so—I can’t imagine hurling myself out of a plane under the best of conditions, let alone while dodging enemy bullets […]

Searching for Nina Tarasova

This week the Library of Congress historic newspaper resource, Chronicling America, will pass a milestone of making ten million digitized pages of American newspapers available free online. These papers were selected by institutions in thirty-eight states and territories, with more expected to be added. When I was working on an article, “Russian American Song,” for […]