What is the American Folklife Preservation Act of 1976?
The considerable range of cultural resources requiring protection and preservation, as well as the growing interest in American traditional culture, led to the enactment of the American Folklife Preservation Act in 1976. The declaration of intent and purpose provides similar language as the National Historic Preservation Act. American folklife, according to Section 2(a), “has contributed greatly to the cultural richness of the Nation and has fostered a sense of individuality and identity among the American people” and “that it is in the interest of the general welfare of the Nation to preserve, support, revitalize and disseminate American folklife traditions and arts” (United States Congress 1976:1). Consequently, preserving cultural traditions and educating the public on said traditions should not be sacrificed over progress or cultural differences. According to Groce (2010), “increased awareness and pride in ethnic and regional diversity of the American people—contributed to a concerted lobbying campaign by cultural specialists, who believed the time had come for a national center devoted to the preservation and study of folklore.” The Act, therefore, created the American Folklife Center (AFC) in the Library of Congress as a space to preserve and present American folklife.
Why do we need this law?
The American Folklife Center has undertaken a wide range of folklife documentation, fulfilling its role of procuring, exhibiting, communicating, preserving artifacts and audio and visual records representing some aspect of American folklife (United States Congress 1976:3). Such materials and educational programs would be made available to other public, private, and nonprofit educational institutions for greater public awareness of folklife, as related in Section 5(6). The center has coordinated efforts in preservation with the National Park Service, and with state and local organizations (King 1998:19). Dissemination of information on folklife to the public led to the Center’s annual Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C. The Center, therefore, has fulfilled its goal of supporting the research and scholarship of folklife to “contribute to an understanding of the complex problems of the basic desires, beliefs, and values of the American people in both rural and urban areas” (United States Congress 1976:1). The educational programs provide a profound resource for the public in understanding the importance and diversity of cultural resources.
2010 History of the American Folklife Center. Electronic document, http://www.loc.gov/folklife/AFChist/index.html, accessed April 23, 2011.
King, Thomas F.
2000 Federal Planning and Historic Places: The Section 106 Process. Altamira Press, New York.
United States Congress
1976 American Folklife Preservation Act, Public Law 94-201, January 2, 1976. Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing Office.