About the Archive


The story of America is entwined in the music that has permeated our lives and the lives of our ancestors and the Native Americans who preceded us on this continent. The Archive of Folk Culture of the Library of Congress was established in 1928 as a repository for American folk music and other ethnographic material. In 1976, Congress enacted Public Law 94-20, which officially established the American Folklife Center to "preserve and present this great heritage of American folk life through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, publication, and training."

The collections in the Library focus on historical material, such as Native American culture and music, roots music of the late 19th and early 20th century, and the work of famous and influential folk musicians like Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly. A clear line of musical descendants can be traced from those roots through performers such as Pete Seeger, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Townes Van Zandt, Nanci Griffith, and others, to the current-day contemporary singer/songwriters such as David Wilcox, John Gorka, Richard Shindell, and Ellis Paul. These modern-day troubadours are a living link to the past, and represent a segment of America's musical voice - not commercial, not always political, but representing a sounding board for thoughtful listeners to vicariously express their feelings on life, and their views on the world.

The Ellis Paul Archive is an attempt to capture this music, and one of its most vibrant practitioners, as the story happens and evolves. When this movement, and its music, is recognized in the future as a part of the logical heir to America's folk music heritage, we hope to have an extensive documentation of it as it happened. We are indebted to Ellis Paul and Ralph Jaccodine Management for their tacit approval and support of this project.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." - Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962    

Bill Eley
Pearland, TX.

Karen Zundel
Belle Vernon, PA.

Photos by Melissa M. Bugg

updated 6 years ago