Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Ralph Rinzler

The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is home to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections. The Rinzler Archives house two major collections. One collection is the Moses and Frances Asch collection, which consists of original recordings, business records, correspondence and photographic material which came to the Smithsonian with the purchase of Folkways Records in 1987. The recordings on the Paredon, Cook, Dyer-Bennet, Fast Folk, and Monitor labels have since been acquired by the Center.  Folkways, Smithsonian Folkways, Paredon, Cook, and Dyer-Bennet recordings can all be searched by artist, title, track, and other options in our web database. An online version of our Whole Catalog (includes all labels owned by Smithsonian Folkways) and a listing of all Smithsonian Folkways releases are also available. Listening copies of most of the catalog are kept in the archives, available to researchers. The Archives also has a strong 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.

The other major archival collection in the Rinzler Archives consists of the written, audio, and visual records of projects and exhibits sponsored by the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, most notably the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, formerly known as the Festival of American Folklife.

The subject material of the various collections is global in perspective, and covers such topics as world ethnic performance traditions, historical and spoken word recordings, sounds of science and nature, occupational folklore, and family folklore.  The collections are also strong in American, and more specifically Euro-American, African-American, Caribbean, and Native American musical and performance traditions.

These are living archives, from which recordings and videotapes are being issued or reissued for enjoyment and scholarly research. 

Collection Holdings

  • More than 17,300 commercial discs
  • 4000 acetate discs
  • About 45,000 audiotapes (reel, cassette, DAT)
  • More than 2000 CD's
  • Over 1,000,000 still images
  • 2000 videotapes
  • ore than 500,000 feet of motion picture film
  • Drawings and posters
  • Files of correspondence and business records for Folkways and other labels held by the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage 
  • Woody Guthrie lyrics, correspondence, and drawings (part of Folkways Collection)

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Capital Gallery Building,Suite 2001 
600 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20024

Mailing Address 
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage 
P.O. Box 37012 MRC 520
Washington, DC 20013-7012

202.633.7019 fax

[email protected]