The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is home to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, a public resource named for the founding director of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
Our various collections are global in perspective, covering world ethnic performance traditions, spoken word recordings, sounds of science and nature, occupational folklore, and family folklore. The collections are strong in American, and more specifically Euro-American, African-American, Caribbean, and Native American musical and performance traditions.
The Rinzler Archives houses the Moses and Frances Asch Collection, which was named to UNESCO’s Memory of the World International Register in 2015. It consists of original recordings, business records, correspondence, and photographic material that the Smithsonian acquired with the purchase of Asch’s label Folkways Records in 1987. Since then, we have added the recordings from the Paredon, Cook, Dyer-Bennet, Fast Folk, and Monitor record labels that together make up Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
Among many other small collections, the archives also includes the written, audio, and visual records the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The bulk of these materials is analog and digital documentation of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, formerly known as the Festival of American Folklife.
We keep listening copies of most of the catalog in the archives, available to researchers by appointment. The archives also has an extensive collection of world ethnic music traditions, early country music and bluegrass, blues, and the Folk Revival on other labels available for in-house listening and research.
As a living archive, our recordings and films are regularly issued or reissued for enjoyment and scholarly research.