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A group of 14 people in costumes

Happy Holidays! AFC’s 2023 Literary Ball Mummers Play Video

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Happy holidays from the American Folklife Center! Watch a video of the AFC Mummers performing our 2023 mummers play! Then you can read the play, see the pictures, and even read the annotations if you’re interested in the history of holiday customs. This year’s play is called “Artificial Intelligence Meets Natural Stupidity: A Literary Ball Mumming.” When Artificial Intelligence tries to make writers obsolete, can St. George Eliot, Sherlock Holmes and Enola Holmes save the day? Find out in this play set at the North Pole Library Literary Ball, which includes wassailing carols and dancing to traditional tunes as well! Mummers plays are short plays which were traditionally performed in Britain, Ireland, colonial America and the West Indies at holiday time. Mummers went from house to house and pub to pub, collecting food, drink and small change as a reward for their entertainment. The American Folklife Center’s archive boasts a large collections of British mummers play texts in its James Madison Carpenter Collection.

Group of people laying long poles across lit barbecue pit in ground

Caught My Eye: Buckaroos and Barbecues

Posted by: Allina Migoni

This is a guest blog post by Drew Holley, a master's student in the Folklore Studies program at Utah State University with a particular interest in food and film. Drew completed his internship at the American Folklife Center earlier this year. Today’s blog will showcase foodways collections (traditions and practices surrounding food) found at the American Folklife Center.

Portrait of singer Thea Hopkins on stage playing a guitar and singing into a microphone

New Guide Offers a Tool Kit for Staging an Archive Challenge

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Since 2015, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has encouraged singers, musicians, and other artists to explore our archive. Through our Archive Challenge events, artists find a song or piece of music they love, put their own stamp on it through arrangement or interpretation, learn it, and perform it. But what if you work at a different archive, and would like to stage similar events to get the word out about your archival resources while also supporting artists and musicians? Good news! We've just created a research guide containing a tool kit for staging Archive Challenge events. Read all about the tool kit, and find a link to the toll kit itself, in this blog post from Folklife Today!

A man sings and plays Tibetan lute

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month on the Folklife Today Podcast

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're back with another episode of the Folklife Today podcast! In this episode for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, John Fenn and Steve Winick invite guests to talk about Asian collections in the American Folklife Center. Allina Migoni talks about the earliest known recordings of Korean music, playing segments of a lecture by Robert Provine and a song sung by Ahn Jeong-Sik. Sara Ludewig discusses the Linda LaMacchia collection, including recordings made of Tibetan singers in India. Steve discusses Asian and Pacific Island collections in the Homegrown concert series, and plays a song, a story, and a flute composition by Grammy-nominated Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal. Special theme music is provided by ukulele master Herb Ohta, Jr.

Black and white photograph of a woman sitting at a desk.

The Alice Fletcher Korean Cylinder Recordings : A Small Part of D.C. History

Posted by: Allina Migoni

Alice Cunningham Fletcher, anthropologist and ethnologist, is most known for her work with Native American groups and her early field recordings of Native American culture. However, this blog will focus another aspect of Fletcher’s fieldwork, a small group of rare and invaluable recordings of traditional Korean music, which she made on July 24, 1896. These cylinders contain the earliest known recordings of Korean music in the world, and predate the next documented recording of Korean song by 11 years. Specifically, they contain songs sung by Korean students whose names are often transliterated today as Ahn Jeong-sik, Lee Hee-Cheol and Son Rong. In this blog you can see a video lecture by Robert Provine about the cylinders, and hear four songs from the collection. These fascinating Korean recordings testify to the historical significance of AFC's cylinder collections to diverse communities all over the world.

Photograph of David Nagashima, Iyo Nagashima, and Yoshiko Nagashima standing in a field outside of their home.

National Women’s History Month on the Folklife Today Podcast

Posted by: Allina Migoni

We’re back with another episode of the Folklife Today podcast! In this episode, reference librarian Allina Migoni and folklorist Michelle Stefano do a special takeover of the podcast in honor of National's Women's History Month. In this episode, Allina and Michelle chose interviews with women from across the collections who have shaped those around them and are dedicated to passing down their cultural traditions. Through these brief insights into these women's lives, we hope to tell a greater story about how women through everyday interactions and relationships shape our society. This may be through the stories they tell, the traditions they pass on, the skills they teach, and the legacies they create.

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

The American Folklife Center: 2022 in Review

Posted by: Nicole Saylor

As 2022 draws to a close, we at the American Folklife Center want to take time to reflect on a year devoted to deepening our commitment to community-centered stewardship, adapting to hybrid work and planning for the future. The year was marked by the Library’s return to full onsite operations, leadership transitions, and moves to new public and staff spaces that make way for the transformation of the Jefferson Building. The year brought waves of change and staff rose to the challenge. Read about the year's highlights in this blog post from AFC's new director!

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

A Seminar for Strathmore Artist in Residence Grad School

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Thanks to an ongoing partnership between the American Folklife Center and the Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda, Maryland, fourteen young musicians were treated to a multi-media feast of collection materials significant to jazz history from three different divisions in the Library of Congress during their in-person visit on Tuesday, November 15, 2022. Read all about it in Folklife Today!