The American Folklife Center, hosted by the Library of Congress, is dedicated to the research and preservation of the many cultures represented in America. The Web site contains digitized collections from the archives of the American Folklife Center, with materials from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, as well as United States trusts and territories. Collections of published and unpublished books, manuscripts, images, sounds, photographs, texts, art, and more can be found on topics such as "Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier," interviews following the Pearl Harbor attacks, blues and gospel music, Indian music, the Woody Guthrie archives, the "Local Legacies Project" and more. While not all of the material held by the Center has been digitized, the finding aids for each of its collections are available online.
The strength of this site is the access it provides to primary documents. Researchers can read original handwritten letters, hear the stories of veterans, or listen to original sound recordings. The American Folklife Center has brought together in one location an abundance of ethnographic material.
Each collection is accompanied by two sections, "Understanding the Collection" and "Working with the Collection." These sections provide supplemental content that helps users better understand the collection and places the information in historical context. For further understanding of the collection, visitors are provided bibliographies, glossaries, content specific maps, related photographs, biographies, and more. To help the user work with the collection there is information on how to view the text, access the audio files, as well as an explanation of any copyright restrictions.
Ethnographers and researchers are the primary audience of this site. However, there is information on the Center's internship and awards programs. Additionally, a visitor to this site can find out about various cultural events taking place in or around the Thomas Jefferson building.
The site itself is clearly organized, easy to use, and current. The text and audio files load quickly and are of a high quality. Users will, however, need a player such as RealOne or MediaPlayer to listen to the audio files. There is no search capability, but researchers can use the site index to quickly find what they need. The site states its purpose and scope, has a collection policy statement, as well as links to projects such as the "Veterans History Project" and the "September 11, 2001 Documentary Project." There is also an impressive list of links to further ethnographic resources that are well maintained.
University of California, Riverside