Folk Music Collections

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The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library

The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library houses the best collection of material related to traditional music in England – probably in Britain. It houses many important manuscript and printed and sound recording collections and also has a friendly and helpful staff.

The Cecil Sharp Collection

Cecil Sharp’s magnificent collection of about 5000 items (3500 English pieces 1500 from the USA)has never been published in its entirety, although a significant amount was published by Maud Karpeles in 1974 (see Song Books Collections). Copies of the collection are at the VWML and much of the original at Clare College Cambridge.

The Greig-Duncan Collection

Magnificent in its size, scope and the fact that it is fully published by Aberdeen University Press in 8 volumes (see Song Books Collections). The richness of the song traditions of north East Scotland is there for all to see. Full of fascination and interest and a mine of good songs.

The Sam Henry Collection

‘The importance of this collection cannot be over estimated, it is by far the largest and most comprehensive single collection of folk-songs from Ulster between the wars’. The material is at Belfast Central Library, Local History Department.

There are various publications from the collection

  • Songs of the People (Songs from the Sam Henry Collection): Blackstaff Press, 1979
  • Sam Henry's Songs of the People (ed Gale Huntington and Lani Herrmann) University of Georgia Press, 1990.

The Carpenter Collection

Currently the subject of a major research and publication project, the Carpenter Collection, chaotic and wonderful though it is, will eventually be available on the Internet. For the time being all we have is ‘The James Madison Carpenter Collection Online Catalogue’ at http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/carpenter/ .


The Folk Music Journal, Vol.7 No.4 (1998) is devoted to material on this collection.

The Alan Lomax Collection

Many of Alan Lomax’s field recordings are available on 100 CDs issued by Rounder Records. This includes material from USA, Caribbean, Britain, Ireland and mainland Europe. A rich and wonderful, material for years of study.

Other Important Archives

  • The Department of Irish Folklore, University College, Dublin [1] - contain the archive of the Irish Folklore Commission
  • Irish Traditional Music Archive useful site with information about the archive [2]
  • School of Scottish Studies has a useful web site - try the ‘Tocher’ selection for some wonderful material;
  • The Mitchell Library, Glasgow has among other things Frank Kidson’s book collection with a lot of historical Scottish and English material

Go to web site , then search on Kidson or Music;

  • Dundee Central Library houses The Wighton Collection of Dundee – English and Irish as well as Scots historical music. [3]
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