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Collection Highlights

The Archives' holdings document the history of ethnographic sound recording, from wax cylinders made during museum expeditions in the 1890s to recent commercial releases on compact disc. The core of the collection consists of over 2,700 field collections–unique and irreplaceable recordings collected by anthropologists, linguists, ethnomusicologists, folklorists, and others throughout the world. Extensive holdings of Native American, African, and Latin American music and spoken word, and several large collections of early jazz and blues 78s are just some of the strengths of our holdings. The list below contains a few samples and highlights. Choose an item from the list to learn more about the collections and hear or see a sample recording. Full IUCAT catalog records for these collections can be found by following the active links from the accession numbers on the highlight pages.

Detail of a totel pole in Alert Bay, British Columbia, 1914.  Photograph by Edward Curtis.

Boas and Herzog Recordings of Dan Cranmer. 1938. Songs sung by Kwakwaka'wakw Chief Dan Cranmer who worked with Boas on the creation of a Kwak'wala dictionary. Added to National Recording Registry for 2013.

Hoagy Carmichael at the piano

Hoagy Carmichael Collections. 1920s-1981. Over 3500 recordings, photographs, and personal effects from the life of popular songwriter, jazz musician, and actor Hoagy Carmichael.

Herbert Halpert stands in front of his modified ambulance for recording

Herbert Halpert. 1939. WPA recordings in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, southeastern Pennsylvania, and New York. In 1939, folklorist Herbert Halpert (1911-2000) traveled through the mid-Atlantic states recording individuals singing Anglo-American ballads, work songs, sea shanties, historical songs, bawdy songs, and game songs.

Lawrence Gellert making a recording

Lawrence Gellert. 1920-1940. African American songs of protest from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. At a time when segregation was embedded in the law and the culture, Gellert documented more than 600 songs by African Americans, and half of them can be called songs of protest.

Sabino Canyon, Arizona

Doriane Woolley McCullough. 1938. Akimel O'odham, Sacaton, Arizona. Woolley recorded the major Akimel O'odham song series at the Gila River Indian Reservation and produced over 800 pages of song texts, translations, and music transcriptions.

Alan Merriam

Alan and Barbara Merriam. 1951-1952. Belgian Congo. Alan Merriam (1923-1980) and his wife Barbara recorded a large number of ethnic groups in eastern, west central, and Ituri Forest areas of the Congo (present-day Democratic Republic of Congo) and Ruanda-Urundi.

AHEYM collection

The AHEYM Collection. 2000-2009. The Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories (AHEYM) includes Yiddish language interviews with approximately 350 people, most of whom were born between the 1900s and the 1930s, conducted in Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia.

Hugh Nolan from Balleymenone

Henry Glassie Northern Ireland Collection. 1972, 1977. Recordings of the residents of County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. This collection is part of the research that became several books, most notably, Passing the Time in Ballymenone. The recordings include performances by and interviews with Peter Flanagan, Joe Flanagan, Hugh Nolan, Ellen Cutler, and many others.

Raute Man with drum

Annapurna Bech Collection. Nepal. 1965-1968. Terence Bech recorded over 260 hours of performances and life histories on more than 400 tapes, transcriptions, photographs, and field notes. The collection documents a wide variety of ethnic groups including Tibetans in exile.

Lorenzo Dow Turner Gullah Transcription

Lorenzo Dow Turner Collection. 1932-1933. Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890-1972) was an African American linguist who became known as the father of Gullah studies following the 1949 publication of Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect. This collection documents sermons, work songs, stories, spirituals, and slavery accounts of fifty Gullah speakers.

Kora

Charles S. Bird. Mali. 1961-1990. These collections document griots and hunters in Mali. They include a variety of song types as well as performances of the epic of Sunjata and exceptional recordings of master musicians on the kora and donso-ngoni.

Calypso and Meringues Recorded In Haiti By Harold Courlander (1953)

Harold Courlander Haitian Collections. 1939-1983. Harold Courlander made more than twenty trips to Haiti and produced numerous books and articles on the subject of Haitian music and oral literature. The Archives of Traditional Music holds four collections of Courlander's research in Haiti.

Black Hawk Valley Boys

Donald Lake Collection. 1940s. These original lacquer disc recordings were made by the Black Hawk Valley Boys, a Western Swing band that performed on the syndicated "Hoosier Hop" radio barn dance on from WOWO in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Henry Robert Antoine aka Dawendo was ordained as

Andrew Carr Collections 1953-1954. These recordings of the Rada community were made in Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. The Rada are an ethnic group in Trinidad linked linguistically to Ewe-Fon peoples of Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin). Carr was a native Trinidadian and a champion of Trinidadian culture throughout his life.

George List Collections

George List Colombia Collections 1960s. A diverse set of recordings that document music and narrative practices in villages along the Caribbean Coast of Colombia in the 1960s. Many of the instruments, songs, and musical activities he documented are no longer practiced.

Kyojiro Kondo Collection of Ainu music

Kyojiro Kondo Collection of Ainu music. c.1957.  A collection of narratives and songs of the Ainu people documented by Kyojiro Kondo. The Ainu of Hoikkaido, have been increasingly assimilated by the predominant Japanese culture. Kondo’s collection represents an early effort to preserve and disseminate Ainu traditional culture.