The Rinzler Archives will be undergoing renovations between October 2018 and June 2019 to improve storage conditions for our collections and to ensure their preservation long into the future. Although our collections will be inaccessible during this period, we will continue to assist researchers with reference inquiries, rights and reproductions requests, and other collections-related matters. To request an appointment to visit
As a public resource, we invite researchers and artists to use our materials. Please make an appointment if you wish to consult materials in the Rinzler Archives. Let us know what materials and subjects you are interewsted in so we can determine if they are available, as some materials are stored offsite.
Our listening and reading room is open to the public by appointment only. We have binders of photographs, slides, and contact sheets from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Diana Davies Photograph Collection, and Robert C. Malone Photograph Collection, with finding aids available. A small library of serials and monographs related to folklore, ethnomusicology, anthropology, musicology, and the music business is also available. Copies of manuscripts can be made depending on their preservation status, and use of our photocopy machine is free.
Audio/visual materials can be used depending on the format and preservation status. We provide recording playback equipment, but a number of obsolete formats cannot be accessed. One-of-a-kind fragile recordings cannot be used without advance notice; archives staff will need to make a reference copy. We do not have transcripts for most of our holdings, nor do we have the resources to make audio or video copies for the public.
Non-published archival materials are made available on a limited basis for research purposes. Copying these materials requires permission from the performer or informant in the recording. In addition to our own collections, there is a library of commercial LPs, 45s, 78s, cassettes, and CDs of sounds of the world from other recording companies available for listening, although we do not have the rights to copy this material.
Acquisitions and Donations
The Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections only collects outside materials on a very limited basis, depending on if there is intention to use them to further our Center’s mission. We acquire other collections if they directly relate to our pre-existing collections or they are related to important persons connected with the Center.
New record company collections are acquired only when all of the publishing rights are turned over to the Center so that we may distribute them. If they complement our collection’s strengths, we collect outside published materials on a limited basis for our library.
The Smithsonian does not provide valuations of recordings, artifacts, and other items.