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Treasures of the AFC Archive Banner #4

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Banner4 blogThis is the fourth 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’re happy to say that these banners have toured with John Cohen and the Down Hill Strugglers to some wonderful venues, including the Newport Folk Festival. It’s another great way we can get the message out about the archival treasures here at the Library of Congress.

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 fourth of the original six banners. To see what the banner itself looks like, see the picture to the right; just click to enlarge.

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.

Lomax Family Collections
at the
American Folklife Center

In 2004, the American Folklife Center (AFC) acquired the Alan Lomax Collection. Assembled by the legendary folklorist between the early 1930s and 2004, it contains approximately 650 linear feet of manuscripts, 6400 sound recordings, 5500 graphic images, and 6000 moving images of ethnographic material from the Bahamas, England, France, Georgia, Haiti, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Spain, the United States, and Wales.

AFC also has important collections compiled by other members of the Lomax family– including his father, John A. Lomax, his stepmother, Ruby Terrill Lomax, and his sister, Bess Lomax Hawes. The Lomax Family Collections can be accessed by visiting the AFC in Washington, DC. Those portions of the collections found online at the Library of Congress can be accessed at this link.

Folksinger Peggy Seeger transcribed over 300 melodies and added guitar chords for Alan’s influential 1960 publication The Folk Songs of North America.


In 1941 and 1942, Lomax visited Coahoma County, Mississippi as part of a joint Fisk University — Library of Congress field project. He recorded his field notes on legendary artists such as Muddy Waters and Son House in this composition book.

Alan Lomax’s notes, including this composition book, are now online in the Alan Lomax Collection at the Library of Congress Website. Click on the book cover above to go to the book. Visit this link for the rest of the collection.

In the 1960s, Lomax developed a classification system to describe and analyze patterns in traditional culture. He and his colleagues amassed an enormous library of international recordings to support his theories.

Alan Lomax editing with Ampex open-reel tape decks. Association for Cultural Equity offices, New York City. Ca. 1980. AFC Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004), courtesy of the Alan Lomax Archive. These decks helped Alan compare performance styles of different world musics, part of the project he called “cantometrics.” Photographer unknown.

Life as a fieldworker was not always easy, as this 1938 telegram makes clear!

This item is from the files of the Archive of Folk Song. The archive was then in the Library’s Music Division, but is now the American Folklife Center Archive. Lomax was in Michigan during his 1938 field trip, the recordings from which are now online at this link.   We assume that the telegram’s misspelling of Music Division Chief Harold Spivacke’s name as “Harod Spivache” was accidental!

Alan Lomax (right), Pete Seeger (left), and Stephen Jay Gould were honored at the Library of Congress “Living Legend” ceremony in 2000.

Pete Seeger (with banjo), Stephen Jay Gould (standing) and Alan Lomax at the celebration of the Library of Congress’s Bicentennial in 2000. The three men were among the inaugural class of “Library of Congress Living Legends,” along with other prominent men and women in science, politics, and the arts. Our print of this photo is unlabeled, but it was shot for AFC by either David Taylor or James Hardin, who each handled the camera at different times during this event.  AFC Editorial Files, “LC Bicentennial” Folder.

Lomax was active as a performer and concert organizer during the early years of the folk music revival. Here, he plays with Woody Guthrie and Lily Mae Ledford.

Woody Guthrie, Lilly Mae Ledford, and Alan Lomax play and sing folk music at a cast party for The Martins and the Coys, 1944. Sonny Terry is partially visible on the far left, and Elizabeth Lomax is partially visible in the foreground. Photographer unknown. AFC Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004), courtesy of the Alan Lomax Archive.


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