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Navigating AFC Collections Geographically: New England

A lighthouse on a rocky coast.

Portland Head Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006. Photographs 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 New England. According to the New England volume of the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures—a reference work found in the Folklife Reading Room—this region comprises the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. As the introductory text explains, “the New England States are home to many proud cultural traditions, including the practices of indigenous Northeast tribes, the legacy of Puritan settlers, the Portuguese coastal communities, Maine’s Acadian population, and many other spheres of influence.”

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 New England guides:

Library of Congress Research guide for American Folklife Center Collections: Connecticut. A photo shows a hairdresser working on a woman's hair.

Screenshot of the introduction to American Folklife Center Collections: Connecticut

American Folklife Center Collections: Connecticut (shown at the top of this blog) highlights the Hairdresser and Beauty Shop Culture in America online collection, an occupational study that included hairdressers in Connecticut. It also includes a video of the Peruvian American music and dance group Negrura Peruana.

American Folklife Center Collections: Maine features the Maine Acadian Cultural Survey Collection, an American Folklife Center field project documenting French American culture in the northern part of the state that is available online. It also includes a video of Ancestral Voices Roundtable, a panel discussion presenting a collaborative initiative to digitally restore, provide access to and curate the oldest recordings in the Library of Congress collections, the 1890s wax cylinder recordings of the Passamaquoddy tribal nation of Maine.

American Folklife Center Collections: Massachusetts highlights the Lowell Folklife Project Collection, an American Folklife Center field project documenting many ethnic groups in Lowell Massachusetts, available online. A video of a concert by Balla Kouyaté, a griot and virtuoso player of the balaphon,  can be viewed in the guide.

Library of Congress Research Guide: American Folklife Center Collections: New Hampshire. The guide features photograph of a quilt.

Screenshot of the introduction to American Folklife Center Collections: New Hampshire.

American Folklife Center Collections: New Hampshire features a prize winning quilt by Janice Miller appliqued with scenes from Jaffery, New Hampshire from the Land’s End All American Quilt Contest collection, which is part of the online presentation, Quilts and Quiltmaking in America. Readers can also enjoy a video of a performance by Les Bon Hommes Du Nord: French-Canadian Fiddle Music & Songs from New Hampshire.

Library of Congress Research Guides: American Folklife Center Collections: Rhode Island. The image in the guide page shows adults and children working on a sand sculpture.

Screenshot of the introduction to American Folklife Center Collections: Rhode Island.

American Folklife Center Collections: Rhode Island features the American Folklife Center’s Rhode Island Folklife Project collection, which can be found online. It also includes a video of Rhode Island’s own National Heritage Fellow Kevin Doyle performing Irish step dance.

Library of Congress Research Guides: American Folklife Center Collections: Vermont. On the page is a photograph of a group of five men and a woman.

Screenshot of the introduction to American Folklife Center Collections: Vermont.

American Folklife Center Collections: Vermont features a photograph of an event at the Library of Congress with folklorist Helen Hartness Flanders presenting three singers from Vermont. A recording of one of the singers was used as an example in the blog “More AFC Recordings on the National Recording Registry,” by Stephen Winick in Folklife Today, and can be heard at the link. A lecture by folklorist Jane Beck, “Daisy Turner’s Kin: An African-American Family Saga,” tells of the history of a remarkable African American family as told by matriarch Daisy Turner.

As this brief introduction to these guides 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.

Navigating AFC Collections Geographically: Mid-Atlantic Region

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 […]

Navigating AFC Collections Geographically: Midwest Region

The following is a guest post by American Folklife Center head of reference, Judith Gray. 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, […]

Navigating AFC Collections Geographically: U.S. Territories

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 […]

Collection Connections: Hubby Jenkins Homegrown Concert, August 11

We’re excited for this week’s Homegrown concert from Hubby Jenkins, who will be playing old-time songs and spirituals that are the root of American folk, country, blues, and gospel. The concert premieres at noon on August 11 on our Facebook page. After that, the concert will be available permanently at his concert page, where you can also read more about Hubby. For now, I’ll just say that he’s an old-time and blues musician living in New York. He’s a singer and multi-instrumentalist who plays guitars, banjos, mandolins, and bones. He has been a member of the Rhiannon Giddens Band, and before that the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops.  As a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, he played at the Library of Congress back in 2012. In this post, I’ll try to whet your appetites by talking about a few of the songs Hubby plays in the concert, and presenting related field recordings from our collections.

Langston Hughes on the Folklife Today Podcast

Season 3, Episode 8 of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at the link from this post to the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher. In this episode  John Fenn and I, along with guests Langston Collin Wilkins and Sophie Abramowitz, look at Langston Hughes as a “Hidden Folklorist.” As usual, I’ll present links to the relevant blog posts and audio selections in this post!

Hidden Folklorists and Hidden Spirituals on the Folklife Today Podcast

Our latest podcast looks at three “Hidden Folklorists” from Louisiana with special guest Joshua Clegg Caffery from the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. The Hidden Folklorists are Becky Elzy and Aberta Bradford, two spiritual singers who had been born in slavery, but who years later sang over a hundred spirituals for collectors; and E.A. McIlhenny, the head of the Tabasco Sauce company, who first collected their spirituals into a book. We recount details of how a microfilm of unique, unpublished manuscript spirituals by Bradford and Elzy came to be part of the American Folklife Center archive, and how Bradford and Elzy came to be recorded on audio discs for the Library of Congress by Alan Lomax in 1934, with the resulting recordings also coming to the AFC Archive. It’s an amusing story in which the 19-year-old Alan Lomax is forced to leave his father, the seasoned collector John A. Lomax “by the side of the road” and drive 40 miles with the 73 year old Bradford to try to find the 82 year old Elzy so they can sing together for the Library’s recording machine. The episode also presents several of their spirituals, and ends with the very moving recording of two women who had been born in slavery singing “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, got free at last!”

Freedom Summer 1964 – SNCC remembers

At the conclusion of his 2014 keynote address on guarantees enshrined in the Constitution but historically denied to African Americans, Bob Moses – freedom rights activist, educator, and MacArthur Genius award winner – summarized the state of the nation thus: “And we are a country that lurches. We lurch forward and backward, forward and backward. […]

Katherine Dunham’s Ethnographic Research in the Caribbean

Katherine Dunham is perhaps most famous for her influence on modern American dance with the introduction of African and Caribbean dance movement. That work began with ethnographic work in the Caribbean in 1936. Films made during her research have been put online by the Music Division of the Library of Congress in Selections from the […]

African American Art Dolls and Puppets for Identity and Healing

On February 18, 2020, the Library of Congress hosted an unusual event, a celebration of African American dolls and puppets sponsored by the American Folklife Center’s Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series. Folklorist Camila Bryce-Laporte and fellow artist, Dr. Deborah Grayson,  presented several artists from Maryland and the District of Columbia. The event also included a wonderful […]