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The American Folklife Center Is On the Job!

Sarah Fortin in the net loft at Reidar’s Trawl & Scallop Gear & Marine Supply, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Photo by Phillip Mello, 2017. Part of AFC’s Occupational Folklife Project collection. Find the interview and photo here.

Out of an abundance of caution due to COVID-19, all Library of Congress buildings and facilities are closed to the public, and American Folklife Center staff are currently teleworking. In such uncertain times, we wanted to reassure our followers on social media, as well as those who use our collections and services in other ways, that we remain committed to serving the public as fully and as long as we can. Although most of us on the American Folklife Center staff have been staying away from our beloved Jefferson and Adams Buildings to avoid catching or spreading the novel coronavirus, the Library of Congress has been very agile and flexible in providing us the means to serve Congress and the public from home or other remote locations—so we are on the job!

All of us on the AFC staff take off our hats to people in other parts of the government whose work is directly related to science and public health, who are working long hours seeking solutions to the challenges posed by this new threat. At the same time, we wanted to remind you that we too are working for you, striving to increase access to collections and information.

Alongside the Library of Congress statement on the pandemic, everyone should be aware of CDC guidelines for coronavirus disease prevention: in addition to washing your hands and not touching your face, these include keeping your distance from other people by avoiding crowds and gatherings, avoiding contact with surfaces that may have been contaminated, and above all, staying home if you’re sick. Many states and localities are enacting stay-at-home policies, closing non-essential businesses, and generally encouraging people to stay home. All of these steps suggest that, like us, you may be spending more time at home in the near future. We want to share our collections and services with you while you’re there.

Martha Jiggetts behind the wheel of a taxi. Photo by Susan Levitas, 1994. From AFC’s Working in Paterson Project Collection (AFC 1995/028). Find the archival scan here.

While you are in your homes during times of reduced travel and social distancing, you can still contact us. The reference staff continues to answer reference questions about folklore, ethnomusicology, and ethnography. Since most of us aren’t at our desks, please contact Ask a Librarian at this link, or email questions to [email protected].

The AFC social media team continues to post blogs, Facebook posts, and email announcements about fascinating folklife topics, and to work on podcasts and videos for release in the near future. We also still have staff members working on collection guides, finding aids, Story Maps, and other ways of connecting you to the collections.

Most importantly, there are already hundreds of hours worth of folklife listening, watching, reading, and viewing online, including thousands of sound recordings, hundreds of videos, and tens of thousands of photographs and manuscript pages documenting traditional music and culture from across the nation and around the world. Below, you’ll find just a few of the ways you can discover and enjoy this online content while you’re staying safe at home.

There are also more specific alerts that pertain to the Veterans History Project. Find those alerts at this link.

Thank you for following the American Folklife Center. Stay safe!

Keep on Top of Developments at AFC

Explore Folklife Collections at the Library of Congress Website

Find AFC Collections at Other Websites

Recent Additions to AFC’s Online Materials


Pandemic: A Woman on Duty

She had already made it five years past the century mark when she finally sat down to share her story for the Veterans History Project (VHP) in 2002. Less than six weeks later, she was gone. Alice Leona Mikel Duffield was a beater of odds. A trailblazer. A go-getter. A caring soul. I’d say that […]

Coronavirus COVID-19 Impact: Veterans History Project Updates

During this global pandemic, the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP) continues to meet its mission of collecting, preserving and making accessible the wartime remembrances of U.S. military veterans. While we recognize during normal circumstances what we do is incredibly important, currently we have taken steps to modify the way we work because the […]

Ready for research: Documentation of Southern pottery, Southeast Asian cultures, and Armenian folk crafts

This is a guest post by American Folklife Center archivist Jesse Hocking, who is part of a new cohort of archives staff across the Library who were hired to help bring collections out of the processing backlog. The American Folklife Center is excited to announce that the collection of Nancy Sweezy (1921-2010), noted folklorist, potter, […]

New Occupational Folklife Project Interviews Go Online

This post was written with Nancy Groce, the coordinator of the Occupational Folklife Project for AFC. The American Folklife Center is delighted to announce that four new Occupational Folklife Project collections are now available on the Library of Congress website. They are “Working the Waterfront: New Bedford, Massachusetts;” “Funeral Service Workers in the Carolinas;” “Illuminating […]

Homegrown Plus: Vishtèn

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with Vishtèn, an award winning Canadian band that performs both traditional and original Acadian music with rock energy. Their original “neo-traditional” compositions are based on […]

Remembering Fred Stewart

This is a guest post written by Carl Fleischhauer. This blog celebrates the life of Fred Stewart, who passed away on September 23, 2019, a victim of cancer at the age of fifty-nine. Fred was a cattle rancher in Paradise Valley, Nevada. He had taken over the Ninety-Six Ranch in 2006 at the death of […]