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American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

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The WPA California Folk Music Project is a multi-format ethnographic field collection that includes sound recordings, still photographs, drawings, and written documents from a variety of European ethnic and English- and Spanish-speaking communities in Northern California. The collection comprises 35 hours of folk music recorded in twelve languages representing numerous ethnic groups and 185 musicians.

This elaborate New Deal project was organized and directed by folk music collector Sidney Robertson Cowell for the Northern California Work Projects Administration. Sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley, and cosponsored by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), this undertaking was one of the earliest ethnographic field projects to document European, Slavic, Middle Eastern, and English- and Spanish-language folk music in one region of the United States.

The mission of the Library of Congress is to make its resources available and useful to Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations. The goal of the Library's National Digital Library Program is to offer broad public access to a wide range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to education and lifelong learning.

The Library of Congress presents these documents as part of the record of the past. These primary historical documents reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Library of Congress does not endorse the views expressed in these collections, which may contain materials offensive to some readers.

Understanding the Collection

The Ethnographic Experience:
Sidney Robertson Cowell in Northern California


Research Materials

Drawings and Sketches


Collection Connections

Working with the Collection

Viewer Information:
Audio, Images, and Text

How to Order Audio and Photographic Reproductions

Editor's Note

Copyright and Other Restrictions


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