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  • Moses and Frances Asch Collection inscribed in UNESCO Memory of the World

    The Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is proud to announce that the Moses and Frances Asch Collection, which includes the albums of Folkways Records, has been inscribed to UNESCO’s Memory of the World International Register. This unique collection, housed in the Center’s Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, features material of both prominent and lesser known musicians, writers, artists, poets, documentarians, and ethnographers from around the world, including Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, Harry Smith, Langston Hughes, and thousands more. It is the first music-related collection from the United States to be inscribed.

    “We are enormously pleased by this world-class recognition of the Folkways Records legacy,” said Daniel Sheehy, Director and Curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, which distributes Folkways Records and other collections. “By bringing it to the widest public attention, it strengthens our efforts to make it a living legacy, an ongoing part of our cultural future.”

    UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme operates with the vision that the world’s documentary heritage belongs to all, and aims to preserve that heritage through direct practical assistance, training, dissemination of advice, and the pairing of sponsors with projects. The programme assists in making access to this heritage permanent and universal. Through its Memory of the World International Register, its work with the media, and its promotional and information publications, UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme works worldwide to increase awareness of the existence and significance of documentary heritage. This is the second Smithsonian collection added to the Memory of the World International Register, joining the John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, and is one of only eight collections from the United States to be recognized.

    The Moses and Frances Asch Collection (1926–1987), acquired by the Smithsonian in 1987 following the death of Folkways Records founder Moses Asch, includes a diversity of documentary, audio, visual, and business materials from Folkways Records. One of the most influential record labels of the twentieth century, Folkways Records’ 2,168 titles include traditional and contemporary music from around the world, spoken word in many languages, as well as instructional albums and documentary recordings of individuals, communities, and natural sounds. American folk icon Woody Guthrie recorded on Folkways, and the collection includes selections of his correspondence, lyrics, drawings, and writings in the series The Woody Guthrie Papers. With the mission of representing an “encyclopedia of sound,” the collection serves as a unique testament to the breadth and depth of the human experience.

    About the Center
    Rooted in principles of cultural democracy and social equality, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage supports the understanding and sustainability of cultural heritage and diversity in communities across the United States and around the world. The Center produces the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, maintains and makes accessible the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, produces extensive research and educational materials and promotes cultural heritage policy for the benefit of communities around the world. For more information visit