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Indexing and Access Note

The online presentation of the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip Collection includes three types of collection materials: audio files, manuscript items (available as page images and searchable text), and related photographs from the Prints and Photographs Division. MARC catalog records do not exist for the audio and manuscript items, therefore the data records for these items contain uncontrolled vocabulary compiled from a variety of sources: the card catalog in the Archive of Folk Culture, the trip fieldnotes and other reports, and a minimal amount of research conducted outside the collection. In compiling the data for this collection, when there has been conflicting documentation, particularly in the case of the sound recordings, the digitizing team has allowed the aural evidence, if available, to cast the deciding vote. The photographs associated with this collection have been cataloged using subject and genre terms from the Thesaurus of Graphic Materials I & II. The process of cataloging these materials is described below.

Audio and Manuscript Items


Data Fields Displayed in the
John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip Online Collection

The following information is provided for each manuscript item and audio file in the collection:


The title used for each audio track generally is that listed in the card catalog in the Archive of Folk Culture; in some instances, if the card is missing or contains no title, we have taken information from the existing fieldnotes, dust jackets, minimal research done outside the collection, and finally, by listening to the audio itself. The descriptive title used for most manuscript items has been devised by Library of Congress staff and appears in brackets.


This field contains the English title chosen by the Lomaxes for songs in Spanish; note that this is not available for all songs in Spanish, and may not be a literal translation.


This field contains other titles for this song or tune. Due to the fluid nature of songs and what they are called in oral tradition, this can only be seen as a partial list, but it is provided with the intent of helping users find particular songs by titles which may be in wider use. Alternate titles that do not appear in brackets have been taken from The Lomaxes’ documentation. Alternate titles that appear in brackets have been supplied by research done outside the collection materials and by making connections between songs within this collection.


Performers’ names appear in the order of Last name, (Title) first name "nickname"; instrument (if known). Because of the field documentation techniques of that time, members of singing groups (convict groups, church congregations, school children etc.) were not always individually identified. In such instances we have supplied as much information as we have been able to gather.


This field identifies the author of a particular manuscript item or the performer of a particular version of a transcribed song text. These names appear in the same order as performers’ names: Last name, (Title) first name "nickname."


This field identifies those audio tracks recorded in Spanish.


This field contains a list of the instruments used in performance. Most audio tracks in this collection are unaccompanied vocals.


These fields (Site, City, County, State) attempt to supply as much information about the specific site of the recording as possible.


This field contains thirteen general terms chosen by the digitizing team to describe the recording venue. They are: chain gang, church, festival, garage, home, hotel, office, porch, prison, school, stadium, store, and tourist camp.


This field contains the date on which the song was recorded or the manuscript item was composed. In the case of discrepancies between fieldnotes, card catalog entries, and other documentation, we have chosen to use the date given on the dust jacket if none is stated on the audio track. Note that more than one date may be found on a single dust jacket because one disk may contain recordings from more than one recording situation.


The "genre" terms used in this field consist of an uncontrolled indexing vocabulary devised while processing the collection, based largely on the Lomaxes’ own descriptions of the various types of songs, as well as existing local subject heading terms used in the American Folklife Center. Because of the variation in local usage and field documentation, multiple genre terms were used to create as broad a subject search as possible. For example, lullabies have also been indexed as children’s songs. Any terms which appear in quotations were provided by the Lomaxes themselves to describe a particular song or class of songs.


This field provides supplementary information about the item, including a note directing the user to the appropriate section of the accompanying fieldnotes for more information about a particular recording situation. Because of conflicting written documentation, we have also included alternate spellings used for locations and performers’ names.


This is an alphanumeric code assigned to a collection of materials in the Archive and used by staff to locate the item at the Library of Congress. The call number for all manuscript items in the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip collection is: AFC 1939/001.

The AFS number is an alphanumeric code assigned to an individual sound recording in the Archive of Folk Culture which is used by staff to locate the item at the Library of Congress. This numbering system was put into use in the 1930s, and continued until the formation of the American Folklife Center in 1976. Because this number identifies individual recording tracks, it has also been used as the digital identifier for the online items. It follows the call number for the collection itself, in this case AFC 1939/001.

Example: AFC 1939/001: AFS 2609a1

This number refers to the original AFS (Archive of Folk Song) disc number 2609, side a, track 1 in the Archive of Folk Culture collection 1939/001.


This field provides information on the source and location of the digital file for an item. It includes the collection-level digital identifier (the aggregate) and the filename of the particular digital item. In the case of audio items, the digital ID is the corresponding AFS number.

Example: afcss39 2609a1

This number refers to the digital file 2609a1 in the digital collection afcss39.


This field identifies related digital items in a variety of formats and provides a "hot link" to these items. This may include photographs from the Lomax collection in the Prints and Photographs Division, if the subject of the photo is the performer or the recording site, or if it fulfills similar criteria. It may also include audio, if, for example, there exists a more complete recording of the same song by the same performer, if the song continues on more than one track, or if there is an announcement explaining the song’s content, provenance, or recording situation. It may also include links to related manuscript items such as song text supplied by the performer (if not in the fieldnotes) or images of the dust jacket if the song was mentioned in Ruby Lomax’s notes.


The Lomax Photograph Collection (Lot 7414)

A Note About Selection: The photos accompanying the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip collection represent all copyright-free items in the John A. and Alan Lomax Collection (Lot 7414) in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. The entire collection consists of approximately 400 items of photographic material (prints, contact sheets, and motion picture contact strips) which document the ethnographic field recordings made by John and Alan Lomax for the Archive of American Folk-Song between the years 1934 and 1940. Unfortunately, no photos were made during the 1939 recording trip, but because the Lomaxes often revisited performers whom they had recorded before, there are portraits of some of their star performers, such as Henry Truvillion, James "Iron Head" Baker, and Mose "Clear Rock" Platt.

Data Fields displayed for Photographs in the
John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip Online Collection

Most of the Prints and Photographs Division's cataloging is considered "minimal level," because information is often limited to what is provided with the picture rather than what could be learned by fully researching the image. The following comments explain the general cataloging guidelines. They also point out which catalog record information is most useful for citing pictorial materials in research notes or publications. Since the original information accompanying a picture can be inaccurate, the Division is always glad to hear from researchers who have additional or better information.

The following information is provided for each photograph in the collection:

TITLE. Most titles were devised by Library staff based on caption information and inventory lists.


This field contains the date that the image was photographed. The date is generally transcribed from the inventory lists, if that information is available. Some photos have a bracketed date range reflecting the earliest and latest time period covered in the Collection. For example: [between 1933 and 1940]. This covers the period of the Lomaxes’ involvement conducting field recording trips for the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk-Song.


Topical subject headings were taken from the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials I : Subject Terms. Genre headings were taken from the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials II : Genre and Physical Characteristics Terms. Some proper name headings are from Library of Congress Subject Authority Files.

Location terms are from the Getty Information Institute Thesaurus of Geographic Names.

Names of individuals identified in the photo were taken primarily from Library of Congress Name Authority Files. In some cases these names have been documented in unpublished manuscript collections in the American Folklife Center and are "non-conflict headings," meaning that while the terms are not in the LC Name Authority Files, they do not conflict with them.


The physical properties of the original image are described in this field. Physical properties are determined by examining the original item. The quantity of images and physical items are given here. For example, "1 photographic print," or "5 photographic prints on one contact strip."


The "Lot" number 7414 is the collection-level identifier for these photos. The photos within the collection were divided into 7 different groups based on their geographic locations. These were:

7414-F: Texas; N1-N43; 46 prints

7414-B: Louisiana and Alabama; N44-N80; 42 prints

7414-C: Georgia and Florida; N82-N118; 39 prints

7414-D: Virginia; N119-N129; 12 prints

7414-E: Prison Camps and State Farms; N130-N137; 10 prints

7414-A: Asheville Mountain Music Festival, NC; N138-N174, N286, N286A; 51 prints

7414-H: Mostly Cat Island, Bahamas - some Nassau; N175-N285; 114 prints

7414-G: Misc. Contact Strips and single photos (mostly unidentified); N287-N369; 86 prints.

The photos are identified by a number beginning with "N" which represents the individual physical item, not the image depicted on it. The prints which are enlargements or duplicate copies of another image have been identified by the N number of the original image with "A" after it. The contact sheets have all been given individual N numbers, and when possible, the images on them which have been assigned N numbers have been identified and cross-referenced with the individual prints. For example, the enlargement of N52 is identified as N52A. Because of enlargements and the fact that, in most cases, the N number represents the image rather than the print, a series of N numbers could refer to more prints than might be assumed (for example the series N1-N43 contains 46 prints rather than 43). The N numbers were assigned according to geographic location (the state or region in which they were taken) rather than chronological order. There are other numbers which may appear in the caption information for some photos, such as "see A8, 3, 5, 6, 84". These numbers have not been identified and presumably refer to a former numbering system. Many of the photos which were taken in 1940 have a number written in ink in the lower right hand corner of the front of the photo. These refer to the original negative number, as noted in an inventory list written by Ruby Lomax.


This field provides the name and address of the institution that has custody of the original negative. This information can help in locating or citing the original image. The following information appears in every catalog record for this collection: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.


This is an alphanumeric code identifying black-and-white negatives or transparencies from which prints, transparencies, and other photographic reproductions can be ordered. This number is the most useful (and shortest) reference citation to include with any subsequent publication of the image.


This field provides information on the source and location of the digital file for an image. It is comprised of the identification number of the digital file that links the image to the catalog record.

The digital ID of duplicate or related image/s have been supplied.

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