American Memory: Technical summary
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
- 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)
- Original material formats
Typescripts, with some hand-writing, English
Note: four pages in
one document are photographs
- 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.
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
Groups of documents with
same four leading characters in identifier are stored in same directory
[Sample directory for documents 07010101 through
Numbering system in place to link searchable text to page images and
Total file-space for digital reproductions:
||Archival text file
||Filename extension ".tif"
||Filename extension ".jpg", ".pct"|
||TIFF Group IV
||4 (all in 1 document)|
Sample SGML document
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
Library of Congress contribution to Digital Libraries Initiative - Phase II