Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the non-profit record label of the Smithsonian Institute, the national museum of the United States.
Set up in 1987 after the Smithsonian Institute acquired Moses Ach’s Folkways Records (founded in 1948), Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding through the preservation, documentation and dissemination of sound. They believe that musical and cultural diversity contributes to the vitality and quality of life throughout the world.

Before it was acquired by the Smithsonian Institute, Folkways Recordings released over 2,000 albums including music from around the world, poetry, spoken word and natural sounds. They were an early ambassador of the singers and writers of the American folk music revival, including such greats as Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly, and went on to become one of the most influential record companies in the world.

A condition of the Smithsonian Institute acquiring Folkways was that almost all of the label’s titles would remain in print forever, ensuring that the sounds and genius of its artists would be available for future generations.

The Smithsonian Institute have subsequently expanded on the initial collection, releasing over 375 new recordings. The current collection consists of more than 3,000 albums and 43,000 tracks along with videos, playlists, podcasts, lesson plans for teachers, and Smithsonian Folkways Magazine.

Due to the unique nature of its recordings Smithsonian Folkways has become an important collection for the musical community, especially to ethnomusicologists, who utilise the recordings of “people’s music” from all over the world.

In 2005 they launched the Smithsonian Global Sound educational initiative – a unique online resource giving easy access streaming and downloads for tens of thousands of audio recordings and hundreds of video features. The initiative provides unparalleled accessibility to less-often heard voices of people from all over the world.

Fun Fact
Moses Ach met Einstein in 1940, who encouraged him to record and document the sounds in the world.

About this Contributor

Contributor type
Minutes created
Christmas #6, BMH #9, BMH #8, Back to School #7, GRC4 #59, GRC4 #56, GRC4 #50, GRC4 #24, GRC4 #19, GRC4 #45, GRC4 #8, GRC4 #42, GRC4 #4, Ella Jenkins: Miss Mary Mack, Memphis Slim: Broke and Hungry, Dr Edna Smith-Edet: In and Out de Window, Dry Bones: Ezekiel Saw the Wheel, Sonny Terry: Fox Chase, Pete, Toshi Seeger & Convicts at the Ramsey and Retrieve State Farms: Lost John, New York String Band: Drumming, Collection 1 #4, Collection 1 #43, Collection 1 #46