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The American Folklife Center Celebrates 40 Years with a Year-Long Series of Events

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Note: This is part of a series of blog posts about the 40th Anniversary Year of the American Folklife Center. Visit this link to see them all!

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It’s our new 40th Anniversary Logo!

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (AFC) turns 40 in 2016. To mark the occasion, AFC will sponsor public programs, special events, and other activities throughout the year, celebrating AFC’s role in the preservation and promotion of traditional culture. “We’re very excited to be passing this milestone in the Center’s history,” said AFC Director Elizabeth Peterson. “We want to take this year not only to look back at our history, but more importantly to look forward to the next forty years of documenting and preserving traditional arts and cultural heritage.”

The American Folklife Center was created by Public Law 94-201, The American Folklife Preservation Act, which was signed into law by President Gerald Ford on January 2, 1976 after it was passed by the 94th Congress.  The law defined several terms, including “American Folklife,” and made an elegant case for the importance of preserving folklife and presenting it to the public. In order to better accomplish these ends, it established an American Folklife Center within the Library of Congress.

We find the law inspiring, so here’s a link where you can or read it for yourself. In the player below, you can hear a part of the law read aloud by the great Bob Edwards, a Peabody-Award-winning member of the National Radio Hall of Fame, a longtime friend of the Center, and a current member of our Board of Trustees:


AFC includes the American Folklife Center Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928, but which has grown enormously in the last 40 years, to become one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. The archive includes about six million sound recordings, manuscripts, photographs, moving images, ephemera, and other items, five million of which have been acquired in the 40 years since AFC’s founding.

Public Law 94-201-1
This image shows the first page of our enabling legislation. The full text can be found at this link.

AFC will kick off its celebration in January, 2016, with the release of new publicity materials, including a set of commemorative bookmarks. In January we’ll also announce a new Flickr photo-sharing project, asking the public to share photos of a folk tradition they practice.  So watch this blog and our Facebook feed as well!

Public programs will follow throughout the year, both at the Library and at venues elsewhere. Plans include a visit to the Library of Congress by the StoryCorps MobileBooth in April and May; special events in the center’s Homegrown Concert Series and Benjamin Botkin Folklife Lecture Series; collaborations with organizations such as the Society for Ethnomusicology and the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives; presentations by staff members at academic conferences and symposia; concerts and open mic stages at large folk music gatherings such as Folk Alliance International and the Brooklyn Folk Festival; and an expansion of AFC’s traveling exhibition, which is displayed at performance venues, conferences, and local libraries.

AFC will also issue a 2016 edition of its classic fieldwork manual Folklife and Fieldwork, as well as other print and online publications.

The events will culminate on December 7, with a special concert in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium. Details on this and other events will be added throughout the year to the Center’s website.  And, of course, this blog will make regular postings throughout the year highlighting AFC’s contributions and collections, and noting AFC’s events.

Read more about the history of AFC and AFC’s operations at our website–and stay tuned for more on the blog!



  1. I think this was Pres. Ford’s last legislative act during his term in office (or close to it).
    BTW: The AFC has been around half my lifetime.
    Joe “Half-Life” Hickerson

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