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Navigating AFC Collections Geographically: U.S. Territories

Photo of an old church

Frederiksted, Saint Croix, Virgin Islands … church. Photo by Jack Delano, 1941. 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  Library of  Congress Research Guides at this link.

In this post, we focus on the guides for U.S. Territories. The territories with currently available guides are American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. Territories are widely separate from each other, with distinct cultures and histories, each fascinating to explore.

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 AFC resources related to a given state, 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 U.S. Territories guides:

Library Research Guides: American Folklife Center Collections: American Samoa. Screenshot of the introduction shows a video of dancers inserted in the guide

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

The guide American Folklife Center Collections: American Samoa features a 2021 video of dance and song by Samoan Studies Institute Students Association for Fa’asamoa. There is also a link to an important collection of South Pacific music and culture: the Fahnestock South Sea collection, 1939-1994, which includes recordings of songs from American Samoa and some silent film footage of dance.

Library Research Guides: American Folklife Center Collections: Guam. The image is Cover of the program book for Taotao Latte - Seventh Festival of Pacific Arts, 1996.

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

The guide to American Folklife Center Collections: Guam features Guam materials documented as part of the 2000 Local Legacies Project. The Bess Lomax Hawes Collection also includes Guam materials.

Library Research Guides: American Folklife Center Collections: Puerto Rico. The screenshot of the introduction shows a photograph of Puerto Rican singers.

Screenshot of the introduction to American Folklife Center Collections: Puerto Rico.

American Folklife Center Collections: Puerto Rico features Sidney Robertson Cowell’s recordings of Puerto Rican Songs performed by Aurora Calderon, Eleanor Rodriguez, and Cruz Losada in 193, available online as part of California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties as well as Puerto Rican culture documented as part of the American Folklife Center field project, the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection.

American Folklife Center Collections: U.S. Virgin Islands includes a link to “Collection Spotlight: Children’s Songs from the Virgin Islands” in Folklife Today with recordings of children’s songs from the U.S. Virgin Islands. It also provides information to more collections that can be explored in the Folklife Reading Room.

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 U.S. territory 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.

Puertorriqueños de Estados Unidos: Identity, Arts, and Culture

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean. Puerto Rican migration to the mainland United States has largely been driven by economic necessity, whether of individuals’ needs to earn more to support themselves and their families, or large scale economic events such as the Great Depression and other […]

Homegrown Plus: Grupo Rebolú’s Afro-Colombian Music

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 a concert and oral history with Grupo Rebolú. Grupo Rebolú is an Afro-Colombian musical ensemble that includes some of the finest Colombian […]

Collection Spotlight: Children’s Songs from the Virgin Islands

Between 1976 and 1978 Karen S. Ellis recorded the playground songs of elementary school students on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. She was teaching at the Ricardo Richards School and many of the children she recorded were her students. This work culminated in a book and recording, Domino, a resource for children and teachers, published […]

A Sampler of Luso-Hispanic American Music and Song

The collections of the American Folklife Center reflect a long history of ethnographic interest in Luso-Hispanic American music and song. Much of the early collecting work focused on peoples of the regions that formerly belonged to Spain. In this post I’ll provide a quick overview of the Hispanic-American music in AFC’s online collections. Spanish Songs […]

A Sampler of Caribbean American Recordings

Caribbean American Heritage Month is a relatively new commemorative month, first created in June, 2006. The American Folklife Center has many collections that document aspects of Caribbean cultures and some of these are available online. This essay can only touch on a few examples, but I hope it will provide ideas on how to explore […]