American Memory: Technical summary

History Manuscripts 
from the Folklore Project, WPA Federal Writer's Project, 1936-1940
People Collage

Collection Overview

These life histories were written by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project from 1936-1940, and represent the work of over 300 writers from 24 states. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents consist of drafts and revisions, varying in form from narrative to dialogue to report to case history. The histories describe the informant's family education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores, medical needs, diet and miscellaneous observations. Pseudonyms are often substituted for individuals and places named in the narrative texts. The Writers' Project staff variously described the life histories as life sketches, living lore, industrial lore, and occupational lore. According to the organizers, the narratives were meant to reflect the ordinary person's struggle with the vicissitudes of daily living.
Source collection
The The U.S. Works Progress Administration Federal Writers' Project and Historical Records Survey , Manuscript Division.
Technical features
Searchable text for brief documents (typically 5-10 typed pages) written by different authors and often representing regional dialects; diverse vocabulary offers challenges in pinpointing paragraphs on same (detailed) topic.
Original material formats
Number of original items
Status of collection
Available online as of November 1997.
Public access:
The Library is not aware of any U.S. copyright or any other restrictions for the documents in this collection. However the persons interviewed or whose words were transcribed were generally not employees of the U.S. Government. Privacy and publicity rights may apply. See notes on rights and restrictions provided by the Library to users of this collection.

Aids to intellectual access

Type & granularity
No individual bibliographic descriptions. Descriptive note for each of 24 states.
Sample state-level description in American Memory.
Linking to digital reproductions
TEI-conformant header for SGML document contains numeric identifier used in filenames for component files of metaobject representing a document. Identifiers are ordered by state; title lists by state are generated by a search on document identifier within a range.
Groups of documents with same four leading characters in identifier are stored in same directory [Sample directory for documents 07010101 through 07013308]. [Sample directory] Numbering system in place to link searchable text to page images and illustration images.

Digital reproductions

Total file-space for digital reproductions: 2 Gbytes

Documents Archival text file Page images Photographs as pages
Marker Filename extension ".sgm" Filename extension ".tif" Filename extension ".jpg", ".pct"
DTD American Memory (TEI conformant) n/a n/a
Tonal resolution n/a 1 bit 8 bit
Spatial resolution
n/a 300 dpi 620x480 pixels
Quantity (approx) 2,897 2,897 documents 4 (all in 1 document)
File size 3-70 Kbytes 2-50 Kbytes 40-51 Kbytes
Sample Sample SGML document Sample page-image Sample photograph

Note: Old HTML versions of the SGML documents are stored with the other files. However, these HTML files are not currently used, and may have errors.

Library of Congress contribution to Digital Libraries Initiative - Phase II [Site Map]
Collections available: [List] [Rights] [Samples] [Handover]
Technical notes: [Documents] [Images] [Maps] [Sound recordings] [Motion pictures]