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Navigating AFC Collections Geographically: Mid-Atlantic Region

Buildings along a river including some with neoclassical columns.

What has become a classic view of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The city’s Water Works building complex along the Schuylkill River, below the majestic Philadelphia Museum of Art at dusk. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2019. Forms part of Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Staff at the American Folklife Center continue to use new digital tools to support remote discovery and access for our resources by users of all kinds. Whether you are a community scholar, a teacher, an academic researcher, a creative artist, or a curious consumer of local culture we hope that our geographically-oriented research guides offer an entry point into the rich collections and resources maintained at the Center! Find the full menu of Library of Congress Research Guides at this link.

In this post, we focus on the guides for the Mid-Atlantic region, comprised of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. According to the introductory text for The Mid-Atlantic volume of the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures:

The Mid-Atlantic region is home to the crossroads of Northeastern America, a nexus between New England, the Midwest, and the South. Furthermore the region possesses incredible cultural diversity ranging from urban metropolises to shore communities to pastoral villages to “rust belt” towns.

Our research guides for each state and territory provide information about collections related to that state or territory—including links to those materials available online—as well as tips for searching the Library’s online catalog. In addition, we’ve gathered other American Folklife Center resources related to a given state or territory, such as blog posts, podcast episodes, online finding aids, and webcasts of public programs. Here are some of the items you’ll find in the Midwest Region guides:

The American Folklife Center Collections: Delaware resource guide features a quilt from the Lands’ End All-American Quilt Collection by Delaware Quilt maker Ruth W. Morris. The guide also includes a video of The Singing & Praying Band: African American a Capella Sacred Music from Delaware and Maryland, a performance at the Library of Congress in 2012, representing an African American devotional and musical tradition that is unique to the Delmarva region.

The guide to the District of Columbia, American Folklife Center Collections: Washington, D.C., highlights several efforts to document community experience that have included Washington, D.C., with links to these collections, such as The “Man-on-the-Street” Interviews Collection with interviews of citizens about the bombing of Pearl Harbor and declaration of war in 1941 shortly after these events, and a similar collection effort found in the September 11, 2001, Documentary Project (both of these collections are online at the links). A video featured in the guide is an interview and panel discussion with Washington area discographer and broadcaster Dick Spottswood recorded in 2019.

The American Folklife Center Collections: Maryland research guide features an art rug from the Mary Sheppard Burton collection from Maryland. While it is unusual for the American Folklife Center to acquire physical artifacts, these rugs were each made to tell a story and the stories told by Burton about life in rural Maryland form part of this collection of folk art and narrative. A video inserted in the guide allows users to enjoy a concert by Phil Wiggins & Friends, blues music and dance from Maryland from a performance at the Library of Congress in 2014.

American Folklife Center Collections: New Jersey highlights the online American Folklife Center field project in the state, Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting. A link to a related blog and podcast, Women Workers Creating and Experiencing Change: Working in Paterson is also included. A video of the presentation: Surati: Classical and Folk Indian Dance from New Jersey (2008) can be viewed in the guide.

The guide to American Folklife Center Collections: New York features a letter to the Archive of Folk Song (now the American Folklife Center archive) from Woody Guthrie, who was living in New York, part of the Woody Guthrie Manuscripts Collection.  The September 11, 2001 Documentary Project collection of personal accounts, poetry, an artwork, related to the terrorist attacks is also highlighted. Embedded in the guide is a video of a concert: Grupo Rebolú: Afro-Colombian Music from New York.

The American Folklife Center Collections: Pennsylvania research guide highlights hairdressers in Philadelphia interviewed by Candacy Taylor as part of the Occupational Folklife Project. Blogs featured include a discussion of Marian Anderson’s Spirituals and a tribute to Don Yoder (1921-2015): The Man Who Put the “Life” in “Folklife” that includes his work on Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish groups in Pennsylvania. A lecture by Dr. Yoder, “The Two Worlds of the Pennsylvania Dutch,” presented in 2011, is the featured video.

The guide to American Folklife Center Collections: West Virginia includes introductions to the Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia collection and the Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection. Two concerts, Flatpick Guitar & Fiddle Music from Kanawha County, West Virginia, with Bobby Taylor, Robert Shafer and Robin Kessinger, and Gandydancera string band from West Virginia, are available for viewing in the guide.

As this brief introduction shows, there is a lot to learn from these guides whether you plan to browse the collection materials online or are planning a trip into the reading room. We hope that researcher, students, and folks who, perhaps just want to experience some folklore or folk music from a particular state will find these new guides a good place to start.

Be sure to visit the Library of Congress Research Guides pages in order to discover the full spread of resources on offer! And, also know that American Folklife Center staff have generated (and continue to produce) guides focused on a wide range of topics. You can find the growing body of these rich and dynamic resources from the American Folklife Center here.

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