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Category: Sidney Robertson Cowell

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

Documenting California Sounds and Communities

Posted by: Stephen Winick

The following post was written by AFC’s Cathy Kerst. Documenting California Sounds and Communities: The Story of Migration and Settlement from the New Deal Era to the Present The Library’s newly-appointed Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, spent the afternoon of September 9 in the American Folklife Center, with the intent of experiencing some ethnographic materials …

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

The Folklore and Folksong of Trains in America, Part Two

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

This is the second part of a two-part article on the folklore of trains. Part one, focusing on the development of railroads in the United States and related songs and lore can be found here. Part Two: Trains and American Culture The coming of the railroads made profound changes in life and culture in the …

A man speaks at a podium

James P. Leary and Folksongs of Another America

Posted by: Stephen Winick

The following installment in Botkin Folklife Lectures Plus post introduces James P. Leary, a distinguished folklorist and researcher who has published extensively on Library of Congress collections in the American Folklife Center. In addition to his lecture video, it includes photos, audio, and video from AFC's collections of Midwestern folk music, including Croatian, French, Scandinavian, Oneida, English, Welsh, and other ethnic groups. 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 the lecture itself, which is also here as an embedded video.

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

Songs and Music of Refugees of the First World War

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

War disrupts populations, and refugees fleeing the conflict may leave their country permanently to settle elsewhere. The first World War caused such disruptions throughout Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. Crossing one border was no longer an escape for many of these people on the move. Refugees fled to countries distant from their …

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

The Language of Birds

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

John James Audubon was born on April 26, 1785 in what is now Haiti. His passion for North American wild birds fostered an ongoing interest in birds and bird conservation in the United States. But, of course, interest in birds and birdsong is as old as humankind. This essay will look at some of the …

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

Poetry Afield

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

When ethnographers collect poetry in the course of a fieldwork project, they are often looking for something in addition to a recitation of an entertaining poem. Poetry, like songs or stories, can tell us something about the culture in which it is found, the local ideas about what makes a good poem, information about languages …

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

Farewell to the Holidays

Posted by: Stephen Winick

On this snowy January day, I’d like to wish the readers of Folklife Today a happy end to the holiday season.  Many people take down their Christmas decorations immediately after the day itself, and others use New Year’s Day as the end of their holiday. But among many communities, the Christmas season culminates after Twelfth …