The research guides from the American Folklife Center, found on this page, help researchers navigate the AFC collections by geographic region or by topic. One of our most recent guides, Latinx and Latin American Collections: Resources in the American Folklife Center, provides quick access to our Latinx and Latin American resources during National Hispanic Heritage Month.
What is a research 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 materials.
The American Folklife Center’s Archive of Folk Culture documents various cultural traditions from around the world in over 500 languages. The Center’s collections offer extensive global documentation of music and dance, storytelling and oral history, material culture, public art and collective experience, and more. This guide provides an introduction to the various archival collections documenting Latin American, Latinx, and diasporic expressive cultures in its various forms found throughout the Center. Keep in mind when searching the collections that Latinx traditions are not monolithic, and span numerous geographic regions, languages, and ethnic and racial groups. Even the term Latinx is not ubiquitous or used across all diasporic communities; you can learn more about the term and Latinx collections across the Library at large at this link.
This research guide highlights selected online collections you can access from the comfort of your own home, such as the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection. These online collections include hundreds of hours of audio, thousands of photographs, and numerous recorded performances held at the Library of Congress throughout the years. This guide also points researchers to listen to relevant podcast episodes produced by AFC staff, as well as other Folklife Today blog articles researched and presented by our staff of folklorists and librarians. The guide also gives a few pointers to researchers of all levels on how to find items in our archive.
Searching Collections – A Sometimes Difficult but not Impossible Task
Most people feel comfortable searching by keyword, but it may take multiple tries to find what you’re looking for. For instance, I might want to search for books about running, and so I use the word “run” in a title keyword search. However, the book that I really need is titled Sprinting, Marathons, and other Distance Races. This means we have to be open to trying searches a few different ways, using a few synonyms, and of course, asking a librarian for help. This guide presents a few searches and results to better help you find collection materials using various keywords and subject headings.
Subject headings are terms chosen by librarians and catalogers as the most applicable categorization for an item. This means we pick the most narrow form of a term, so instead of “Latinos” we may use “Mexican Americans” if that term more accurately represents the people depicted in the work. Below is a portion of our research guide with searches already conducted for you to help get you started finding materials in our archive.
See an example of multiple subject headings used cataloging an item in our collection below:
Here, the keyword used was “Latin” which would yield both “Latin America” or “Latin American” as results. See how in each subject heading there are multiple forms for Brazil? Both “Brazil” and “Brazilian” are used in cataloging this item. Be sure to use synonyms or other forms of a word when searching either by keyword or subject heading. An example of an advanced search using this technique can be seen below. In “Advanced Search” you can also refine your search by geographic region, language, or item format.
In addition to example searches, the Searching the Collections portion of the guide includes numerous collection summaries organized by country in Latin America, full finding aids for selected collections, such as the finding aid for the Alejandro Paz Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico Collection, and links to various catalog records for our collections not available online but still available for research in our reading room. We hope these selections get you interested in the AFC’s archive of over 3,000 collections, and give some easy entry points to discover the vast cultural heritage documented in the AFC.
Further Questions? Ask a Librarian!
The research guides created by the AFC and the Library at large (available at guides.loc.gov), allow researchers to discover and access our collections from afar. These guides also connect researchers directly to Library staff! If you have a question, please use our “Ask A Librarian” form which is linked on every single research guide, as seen in the box to the right.
Our Ask A Librarian service can connect you directly with the correct division of the Library of Congress and their respective reference librarians and subject experts! The Library of Congress is open to all, and if we can’t answer your question, we may be able to direct you to your local library or other institutions to help you continue your research path. We hope our various research guides get you connected to collection materials at the Library, and we invite you to take the time to use them and explore the wealth of knowledge the American Folklife Center and Library of Congress offer.