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Halloween and Día de Muertos Research Guide Expanded and Updated

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A scarecrow sits in a folding chair on a porch. On the door is a sign reading "Happy Halloween."
Folklorist Sue Samuelson documented this scarecrow as part of her series “Halloween porch decorations, New Gretna, New Jersey” in 1983.  See the photo series at this link.

Get ready for two upcoming holidays with the expanded and updated research guide on Halloween and Día de Muertos from the Library of Congress!

Halloween & Día de Muertos Resources highlights collections from across the Library, including the American Folklife Center, Prints and Photographs, the Hispanic section, Rare Books, Manuscripts, and the National Audio Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC). Items we’ve added for this year’s Halloween season include a player where you can listen to Jack Santino’s classic Halloween lecture from 40 years ago, which discusses the deep history of the holiday and its transformation in the modern world, and includes his own tellings of folktales and other items of Halloween lore.

“Día de los Muertos” by artist Juan Fuentes is part of the Mission Gráfica/La Raza Graphics collection. This collection has been added the the guide this year!

We’ve also added:

  • links to notable books to get you started in your Halloween reading
  • a player to watch the first film version of Frankenstein from 1910
  • a gallery of classic Día de Los Muertos posters from the Mission Gráfica/La Raza Graphics collection in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division
  • links to lots of new content like the witch tales from Aunt Molly Jackson that I blogged about just last week.

Halloween & Día de Muertos Resources has nine pages packed with content. Keep in mind that some of the categories overlap–for example, some “Hispanic Materials” are also “Prints and Photographs.” We had to pick a spot for each item or collection, so we encourage you to skim the whole guide before taking a deeper dive into your favorite areas.

We think of Halloween & Día de Muertos Resources as a one-stop Library guide for all things scary! Are you looking for books, photos, poems, or films related to Halloween, Día de Muertos, or the supernatural? Do you want to find spooky folklore, including audio of traditional folktales or songs about ghosts, witches, and the Devil? We tried to put something entertaining and enlightening on every page–so it’s not just a guide to research, it’s also a collection of fun scares–and an invitation to contemplate the mysteries of death.

Find the updated guide here!


A Brief History of the Halloween and Día de Muertos Guide

The Library of Congress’ suite of research guides are resources created by librarians across the agency meant to highlight relevant collections and teach researchers how to better search our millions of collection items. But the Halloween & Día de Muertos Resources is special. It was one of the first research guides created for the “” domain back in 2017, and was adapted from the exhibit catalog for that year’s exhibition LOC Halloween: Chambers of Mystery. For the exhibit, curators from across the Library picked some of their favorite items to show the public. As AFC’s lead curator on the project, I selected supernatural songs and stories from field and festival recordings to play on audio and video loops; created display reproductions of supernatural chapbooks from our Brazilian Literatura de Cordel collections; and recommended spooky photos from our field projects. I even built a scarecrow based on one documented for our collections by Sue Samuelson in 1982!

Head and shoulders portrait of three men, with a scarecrow.
Halloween exhibit curators Nicholas Brown, Stephen Winick, and John Fenn take a selfie with James H. Skellington, the scarecrow we created for our Chamber of Mystery.

In the exhibit, these materials from the American Folklife Center were presented alongside items from across the library: books about Halloween and the supernatural; sheet music on scary themes; photos of Halloween celebrations; film clips from classic horror flicks; and much more. The Library’s Hispanic Division went all out, creating a table for ofrendas, a solemn and important tradition of Día de Muertos. As the exhibit got near to opening, I worked with the exhibit coordinator Nicholas Brown to edit the exhibit catalog, a document listing all the items we showed the public in the exhibit. That document was available at the exhibit for audiences to take home. (The pdf still available at this link!)

Using the exhibit catalog, as well as their own visual and curatorial instincts, members of the Library’s research guides team made the Halloween & Día de Muertos Resources as a prototype–one of our first guides using LibGuides software. I was listed as the author, but in truth other people–including our great behind-the-scenes hero Betsy Fulford–did most of the work of building it. Because the exhibit was the work of many people, the guide also reflects the work of many staff members across the divisions, especially the Hispanic section and Prints and Photographs!

Back in 2017 I promised to edit and update Halloween & Día de Muertos Resources to keep it fresh as the years went by. I’ve kept my promise by adding bits and bobs year by year. But this time I’ve done a more comprehensive overhaul, and I hope it makes the guide more useful–and more fun! See what you think at this link!



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