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Library of Congress
American Folklife Center

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress was created by Congress in 1976  "to preserve and present American Folklife."  The Center incorporates the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established at the Library in 1928 as a repository for American Folk Music. The Center and its collections have grown to encompass all aspects of folk life from this country and around the world. 


Library of Congress
Jefferson Building
101 Independence Avenue, SE, Washington, D.C.

The American Folklife Center's Office and Reading Rooms are located in the Jefferson Building on the ground floor. They are open 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday (except federal holidays).

All recorded interviews of Folk Music Archives are part of the permanent archive collection of the American Folklife Center.


The best known publications from the Archive of Folk Culture are the albums edited by Alan Lomax, B.A. Botkin, Duncan Emrich, Frances Densmore, Willard Rhodes, Archie Green, Charles Seeger, and other folklorists, issued by the Library of Congress beginning in 1941 under the series title Folk Music of the United States.  A second series, Folk Music of America, was released at the time of the Bicentennial.

The Folklife Center and the Recorded Sound Division of the Library are currently collaborating with Rounder Records to re-issue many of the Center's recordings in compact disc format. In addition, commercial recording companies have issued over 100 recordings compiled from the collections of the Archive.

Joseph C. Hickerson began his career at the Library of Congress  in June 1963 as a reference librarian in the Archive of Folk Song. In 1974 he became its eighth head. In 1978 the Archive of Folk Song became part of the American Folklife Center. Joe became head of acquisitions, but continued to serve in the capacity of reference librarian and chief resource contact for researchers from around the world.

Folk Music Archives interviewed Joe in the Folklife Reading Room on October 2, 2000.  "I composed the fourth and fifth  verses for a song Pete Seeger recorded,  "Where Have  All The Flowers Gone,"  based on a Russian folksong." He first met Pete while attending Oberlin College  and graduated in 1957. Joe said during the  interview,  "Pete lived in Beacon not too far from
 Camp Woodland in Phoenecia, New York where I  was a camp counselor that summer .  .  . by  chance he heard the new verses being sung and wrote them down."
In an interview with Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary on December 14, 2000 she said, "I learned the song from Bob De Cormier our musical director." Nick Reynolds, John Stewart and Bob Shane of The Kingston Trio told Folk Music Archives, "we heard them [PP&M] sing it at Storyville in Boston - - we liked it and went to New York the next day and recorded it on Decca." Pete Seeger candidly told FMA: "the royalties from the song pays my taxes!"

Photo Above: Joe Hickerson in the Folklife Reading Room
playing the guitar that Burl Ives donated to the Folk Archive in 1989.
Photo Credit: James Hardin

Photo Archival Note: Burl Ives played a left handed  guitar.

Joe Hickerson retired on July 2, 1998 after thirty-five years at the Library of Congress. He said, "I chose that date because my term of service equaled one-half the life of the Archives." The Music Division of the Archive was established on July 1, 1928.


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