Ralph Rinzler (1934-1994) was an important twentieth century folklorist who was the co-founder of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Rinzler was a musician, festival administrator, scholar, and champion of grass roots folk expression in the United States. His field recordings include work with Doc Watson, Clarence Ashley, Bill Monroe, The Balfa Brothers, and Charlie Sayles, and work in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
The Archives acquired Rinzler's personal papers, correspondence, and record and tape collection in 1994. Because of Rinzler's prominent role in the Festival and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the Archives were named in his honor in early 1998. His field tapes have been used to create a number of CD releases on the Smithsonian Folkways label.