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Proverbs, Myths, and “The Bard”: Are We Really “Quoting Shakespeare”?

The popular essay often known as “You Are Quoting Shakespeare,” suggests that many common phrases have their origin in Shakespeare’s works. This post shows that most of those phases were proverbial folklore, known well before Shakespeare’s time. It suggests that attributing them to Shakespeare is a form of what Stephen Jay Gould called a “Creation Myth,” and that the credit for many of the phrases should go to ordinary speakers of English. It argues that part of Shakespeare’s greatness lay in his ability to use such phrases to create natural dialogue.

Bess Lomax Hawes Digital Collection Launches

This is a guest post by reference librarian Todd Harvey, who curates the Lomax family papers at the American Folklife Center. Today, the American Folklife Center announces the launch of the Bess Lomax Hawes (1921-2009) digital collection, now available at this link. A scholar, teacher, performer, writer, and filmmaker, Bess established and stewarded the Folk […]

Words of Wisdom from the Descendant of a Survivor: ‘Stay Home and Play Your Banjo’

The following is a guest blog post by Hope O’Keeffe, an attorney in the Library’s Office of General Counsel, and an ardent supporter of the Veterans History Project. To read a previous guest post about her family’s history of proud military service, go here. This is my grandfather, John McLaughlin, quarantined during the 1918 flu […]

Front Line Perspective

In this time of national crisis, the staff of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP) wants our readers and participants to know that our thoughts are with you. We recognize, now more than ever, there is a collective need to look at and remember individual experiences, so that we never forget what sacrifice […]

Stories from the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic from Ethnographic Collections

The Library of Congress collections contain stories of the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic as told by ordinary people, documented by folklorists, linguists, and others as they collected personal histories and folklore. Several of these are available online and a selection will be presented here, with links at the end under “Resources” where more can be found. […]

No Depression Features Zora Neale Hurston

We’re happy to announce a new venture in getting our stories out there! We’re working with No Depression, The Journal of Roots Music, which is published by the nonprofit Freshgrass Foundation.  They’ll be publishing a column called Roots in the Archive, featuring content from the American Folklife Center and Folklife Today, over at their website. […]

Split This Rock! Poems Inspired by the American Folklife Center Archives

Members of the Washington, D.C. Youth Slam Team of Split This Rock performed poems inspired by recordings, photographs and field notes from the American Folklife Center archives on June 08, 2019 in an event co-sponsord by the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center. The video of these remarkable young poets is now available. This […]

Songs for the Easter Season: Polyphonic Singing from the Republic of Georgia

Georgian polyphonic singing has a rich and ancient past. It predates Christianity and its pre-Christian roots are alive today in secular songs such as lullabies, harvest, hunting, and wedding songs. The Christian songs survived a dark time while Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, as the tradition was banned from 1921 to 1990. Monks […]

Podcast: Episode 17, on Transcribing Lomax with By the People, is Ready for Listening!

Episode seventeen of the Folklife Today Podcast (or Season 2, Episode 5) is ready for listening! In the episode, John Fenn and Stephen Winick talk about a campaign called “The Man Who Recorded the World: On The Road with Alan Lomax.” It’s an effort to crowdsource transcriptions Alan Lomax’s fascinating field notes. Through this campaign, you can help out the Library of Congress and music fans worldwide by increasing access to Lomax’s field notes through transcribing and reviewing pages. Anyone can get involved at the link provided in the blog. The podcast and blog feature music from throughout Lomax’s career as well as descriptions of his notes.

Flashbulb Memories: Where Were You When…?

Flashbulb memories are those vivid, autobiographical memories that form when we learn of a particularly surprising, traumatic or impactful event. These kinds of memories burrow themselves deep into our memory banks, and often remain dormant until triggered to resurface. An image. A sound. A scent. Anything, really, can be the catalyst that sets the wheels […]