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Collections documenting cultures in Brazil, the Sudan region, New Mexico and California are now richly described online

page from photo album with five images and three captions

This photo album from the Roxane Connick Carlisle collection includes documentation from Sudan, 1967.

A handful of recently published online finding aids describing American Folklife Center collections provide detailed windows into collections documenting a range of traditions, from New Mexican Midwinter Masquerades to traditional music from the Sudan region. The following round-up draws heavily on descriptions created by the archivists who processed these amazing collections.

Roxane Connick Carlisle Collection, 1963-1984


Ethnomusicologist Roxane Connick Carlisle created this collection of field recordings, photographs, video recordings, and field notes from 1963 through 1968 primarily in the Darfur Province and other locations in the Sudan region, which now includes South Sudan. She recorded marriage ceremonies, and interviewed prestigious figures (including musician el Kabli and the governor of Diriege). She both recorded and photographed a range of musical instruments, and also photographed dances, wrestling, landscapes, temples, and the people with whom she met. In addition, the collection includes photos of fauna, photographed by her husband David Carlisle, also a noted academic. By the time Roxane began her fieldwork in Sudan, the country had been independent from Egypt and Britain for less than 10 years. During these early years of independence, she had the opportunity to record the traditions of various tribes that subsequently have become persecuted, including the Fur and the Zaghawa. The collection also includes recordings of the radio series, “Listen to the World,” from 1971-1973, broadcast on CHEX-FM, Peterborough, Ontario. The shows were produced, written, and narrated by Roxane Connick Carlisle. Sound recordings for radio programs, demonstration, and teaching ethnomusicology include music from Afghanistan, other locations in Africa (Ethiopia, Burundi, and more), Australia and Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, North American Indian, Philippines, Polynesia, Southeast Asia, and Spain, and include recordings for Alan Lomax’s Cantometrics project.

image of the front jacket of a publication

A Brazilian folk music score from the Luiz Heitor Corrêa de Azevedo collection on Latin American folklore, 1904-1986.

Luiz Heitor Corrêa de Azevedo collection on Latin American folklore, 1904-1986


The Library is home to much of the work of Brazilian folklorist and musicologist Luiz Heitor Corrêa de Azevedo (1905-1992). This newly described collection includes monographs, articles, bibliographies, conference proceedings, and other publications about folk music, musical instruments, popular music, dance, folklore, food traditions, proverbs, children’s folklore, traditional and folk medicine, local religious celebrations (including Christmas, Epiphany, and Easter) and devotions to various saints, Cuban Santeria, Afro-Brazilian traditions, and anthropological studies of indigenous people of Brazil, among other topics. Many of the publications are dedicated to topics that appear in the Brazilian tradition of literatura de cordel. Azevedo’s fieldwork, including audio recordings created on equipment loaned to him by the Library of Congress in the 1940s, are also among AFC’s holdings: recordings from Goiânia, Brazil (AFC 1943/015), recordings from Ceará, Brazil (AFC 1945/008), and a collection of folksongs of Minas Gerais, Brazil (AFC 1948/002). We also have his photographic album (AFC 2017/046). The Music Division at the Library also has a related collection of papers, including correspondence. In 1997, some of the songs were released by Rykodisc as L. H. Corrêa de Azevedo: Music of Ceará and Minas Gerais in the Library of Congress Endangered Music series.

Caffè Lena collection, 1960-2013


The Caffè Lena coffeehouse in Saratoga Springs, New York, is often recognized as the oldest continuously operating folk music venue in the United States. This collection of more than 500 audio recordings, plus digital audio files, video recordings, film, photographs, papers, and ephemera documents the history of the coffeehouse, founded by Lena Spencer and Bill Spencer in 1960. The collection includes a large number of live concert performance recordings by folk musicians and singer-songwriters, as well as theater, storytelling, and poetry performances. The collection also includes folk music radio programs produced from Caffè Lena concerts by Robert Durand and others. Some materials were gathered by Jocelyn Arem while conducting research on the history of Caffè Lena, and the collection includes drafts and page proofs of Arem’s book, Caffè Lena: inside America’s legendary folk music coffeehouse (2013). In 2014, coffeehouses were the focus of a symposium looking at the history of these venues that create local communities around music, and Arem spoke about Caffè Lena in this session. For more about coffeehouses as hubs for folk music and counterculture, see Nancy Groce’s blog post on the subject.

person in black robe and white mast with hand raised at festival

Festival documentation by Peggy Beck taken in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico, June 9, 1985.

Peggy V. Beck collection, 1985-1987


This collection comprises research materials created and compiled by Peggy V. Beck for the exhibition Oremos, Oremos: New Mexican Midwinter Masquerades, at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, New Mexico in 1987, as well as documentation of other New Mexican midwinter rituals. Included are sound recordings of interviews, rehearsals, and performances; field notes, photographs, drawings, and videocassettes; plus exhibition catalogs and exhibit scripts. The focus of the exhibition is midwinter celebrations and plays, including Los Matachines, Los Pastores, and Los Días, and photographs and drawings of abuelos and abuelas. Beck, an author and educator, generated this documentation while living in northern New Mexica where she taught humanities at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands University at the time. Beck conducted interviews and documented midwinter masquarades in the mid-1980s in eight north central New Mexican locations. The masquerades centered around the figure of the abuelo (a word that normally means “grandfather” but in this context refers to masked ogres or bogeymen that appeared between December 10 and Christmas). The masked abuelos were said to come down from their mountain caves, attracted by luminaria (square-shaped bonfires made from cross-hatched pitch pine logs). The masqueraders went from house to house, dancing and performing. Children were warned that unless they were good, the whip-cracking abuelos would carry them off. On Christmas Eve, the culmination of the festivities, the abuelos and masked young people roamed the countryside asking for Christmas treats. Beck found that the abuelos masquerades had elements similar to indigenous Pueblo midwinter rituals as well as characteristics common to solstice celebrations in West Africa, South American, and Europe (among the Basque people, for example).

Caught My Eye: Nagra Field Recorder

Note: This is a guest post by John Fenn.  John is the new head of the Research and Programs section of the American Folklife Center. My first weeks here at the American Folklife Center have been a whirlwind of meetings, trainings, and orientations to all aspects of the Library of Congress. As I’ve wandered through […]

Finding aid to Vida Chenoweth’s fieldwork now online

This is a guest post by Maya Lerman, processing archivist at the American Folklife Center. We’re pleased to announce the launch of the finding aid for the Vida Chenoweth collection, circa 1940-2000. (Find it at the link above.  The permanent handle for this resource is [//hdl.loc.gov/loc.afc/eadafc.af016007]) During my first year as an archivist at the American […]

Election Week Special: “The Dodger” and the Election of 1884

Note: this is the third in a series of posts about a classic item from the AFC archive, “The Dodger.” [See the first post here.] [See the second post here.][See the third post here.] Second note: we’ve also created a podcast version of these stories. Download our “Dodger” podcast here! Election Day is less than […]

American Folklife Center Reissues Four Historic LPs

The following guest post by Jennifer Cutting is part of a series of blog posts about the 40th Anniversary Year of the American Folklife Center. Visit this link to see them all! The American Folklife Center (AFC) is pleased to announce the availability online of four titles from our historic series of record albums, Folk […]

Treasures of the AFC Archive Banner #5

This is the fifth in a series of six posts presenting AFC’s new traveling exhibit Treasures of the American Folklife Center Archive. The exhibit takes the form of lightweight, colorful vinyl banners containing information about AFC, the Library of Congress, and (as the title suggests) some of the treasures found in our archive. Originally conceived […]

James P. Leary and Folksongs of Another America

The following post introduces James P. Leary, a researcher who has published extensively on Library of Congress collections in the American Folklife Center. Most of the quotations from Leary in this article come from an email interview we did in July 2015, but I also quote occasionally from a lecture he gave at the Library […]

Jean Ritchie, 1922-2015

Note: The whole AFC staff was saddened by the death of Jean Ritchie earlier this month.  We paid tribute to her immediately in a Facebook post, which you can see here, and the Chairman of our Board of Trustees, C. Kurt Dewhurst, made a moving statement about Jean at the Board’s June meeting.  However, I […]

Alan Lomax in Italy: a letter to Goffredo Plastino

At the American Folklife Center, researchers come from around the world to study our unparalleled documentation of traditional culture. But sometimes, they don’t even have to come here. Occasionally, new discoveries by our staff are so exciting or so curious that we feel prominent researchers need to know. For this reason, our reference librarians keep […]

Honoring Vernacular Sounds: AFC Recordings on the National Recording Registry

Last week, the Library announced this year’s inductees to the National Recording Registry.  There, along with classics by The Doors, Radiohead, Steve Martin, and Joan Baez, was a fascinating AFC collection: The Benjamin Ives Gilman Collection Recorded at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago. This collection of 101 wax cylinder recordings was created by […]