PFP Folklife Archive

The Folklife Archive of the Philadelphia Folklore Project preserves primary ethnographic documentation of the folk culture, histories and experiences of diverse Philadelphians. The archive of 65,000+ items includes more than 1,200 archive accessions and 480 open files containing about 700 audio and videotapes of oral histories and folklife interviews, 40,000 photographs and slides, 15 shelf feet of field research notes and other manuscript materials, 26 shelf feet of artifacts and about 21 file drawers of printed ephemera documenting local grassroots folk cultural organizations and their histories, activities, resources and collections. Our archive is exceptionally diverse; it documents and preserves significant aspects of Philadelphians' lives, experiences, histories and expressions. The archive is accessible by appointment (generally scheduled M-F 9-5), and through a computerized finding aid, with various subject indices as well as accession descriptions.

Philadelphia Folklore Project Archive Policies

Mission Statement
The Folklife Archive of the Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP) preserves primary ethnographic materials in all formats that record local community folklife, arts, history and culture: the experiences and expressions of ordinary (and ordinarily undocumented) people in the Philadelphia region. The Archive also preserves PFP's administrative history, exhibits, programs, documentary projects and other initiatives.

The Folklife Archive is a significant, and sometimes a sole, record of important but ephemeral community events, festivals, family traditions, institutions and arts - including peoples' own reflections on their experience, artistry, history and traditions, both in the native languages of immigrants (particularly in Khmer, Chinese, Lao, Vietnamese, and Spanish) and in English. Some of the artists represented in the Archive are nationally and even internationally known.

Collections in the Archive primarily support PFP's mission and programs. We are also regularly consulted by scholars and family members for information and resources about important artists whose places in art and cultural history have yet to be written.

Collecting Scope
PFP's Folklife Archive collects and preserves published and unpublished materials resulting primarily from our original folklife field research. Occasional donations from people working in folk and traditional arts in the Philadelphia region are also included. We preserve materials in a wide range of formats, including photographic images; sound and moving-image recordings; printed ephemera; paper-based and multi-format field notes and correspondence; artwork; artifacts and more.

Key subject areas in our Archive include: ethnic and cultural social dance traditions, folk arts of social change, family businesses, African American tap dancers and entertainers, Cambodian, Hmong and Liberian community cultural traditions. There is substantial documentation of individual local artists working in diverse folk and traditional art traditions. Documentation of diverse Philadelphia-area community folklife documentation also include a range of culturally significant music and dance traditions, processions and festival forms, weddings and family rites of passage, graffiti, yard art and other public folk arts assemblages, community gardens, craft and material culture, and more.

The Folklife Archive serves primarily as a resource for PFP's mission and programs, as well as for the artists and communities documented in collections. Collections descriptions provide an overview; accessions are indexed in a searchable database. As donor restrictions allow, archival resources are accessible to outside researchers by appointment (generally M-F, 9-5 pm). If you have questions, contact us at 215-726-1106 or pfp (at)

The Folklife Archive has received financial support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for fieldwork resulting in archive materials. We have received support for the ongoing maintenance and preservation of the Folklife Archive from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, the GRAMMY Foundation, and individual PFP members. Support from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has allowed a major inventory project (2007 - 2009).