What Are Audiovisual Materials?

Audiovisual (AV) materials present information through the senses, rather than though merely printed words. Sound recordings, video recordings, oral histories, film, documentaries, broadcasts, presentations, television, and radio are all audiovisual materials. Audiovisual materials most frequently provide documentation of customary lore, but also sometimes material lore or verbal lore. Included on this page are some materials that are related to or peripheral to audiovisual documentation; for example, musical scores.

Resources at Harvard

Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature

The Milman Parry Collection is the largest single repository of South Slavic heroic song in the world. The On-Line Database of Harvard's Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature (MPCOL) provides a publicly accessible guide to the contents of this unique archive of materials relating to South Slavic oral tradition. The MPCOL comprises a number of component collections, two of which may be searched or browsed in the current version of the Database: the heroic songs, conversations, and stories in the Parry Collection (1933-35), and the entire contents of the Lord Collection (1950-51). Selected materials (texts and audio) are available in digital format. Users may access these materials through links in the associated records. All of the original materials are currently housed in Widener Library.

The Music in The Music of Black Americans: A History

"This site is a project of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library at Harvard University. It offers the first organized, openly accessible inventory of the musical examples in the first edition of The music of Black Americans, and provides full-text open access to the complete scores of almost all of these examples, from sources in the collections of Harvard Library and other institutions...the content of this site represents research completed in late 2022."

Celtic Department Audio Collection


Harvard has a small collection of audio recordings of Irish folklore materials collected at Harvard and in Rannafast, Co. Donegal, Ireland in the 1970s. The materials include oral histories, folktales, and songs, in both Irish and English.

Joe Heaney at Harvard 2/8/75 :[field work collection] : Irish songs and stories

Description: 2 sound discs
Contents: A performance of stories in English, and songs in Irish and English by Irish singer Joe Heaney (Seosamh Ó hÉanaí, 1919-1984) at Harvard on 8 February 1975.

Untitled materials collected in Donegal, Ireland

Description: 2 sound reels
Contents: Irish folklore material collected in Rannafast, County Donegal, Ireland in August 1974. This material also contains some Welsh-language recordings and is part of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature at Harvard series. The material has yet to be digitized.

Oidhche Sheanchais

Creation date: 1935
Description: 2 DVDs (run time: 13:37)
Contents: The first sound film in the Irish language. The film is a documentary in which the famous seanchai (storyteller) Tomas Ó Diorain tells tales of the sea. The film was directed by Robert Flaherty, and was sponsored and written by the government through the Department of Education.


Harvard has a collection of audio recordings of Welsh folklore materials collected in South Wales and in the Welsh colony in Patagonia in South America in the 1960s and 1970s. The materials include oral history, folktales, poems, and songs, in Welsh and English. 

The Welsh colony in Patagonia :[field recordings

Description: 11 sound reels
Contents: Welsh folklore collected in Patagonia in South America in the 1960s. 

[Patagonian project I :field recordings

Description: 8 sound reels
Contents: Welsh poems and songs collected in Patagonia in South America in July and August of 1968.

[Patagonian project II :field recordings

Description: 15 sound reels
Contents: Welsh folklore, including oral history and songs, collected in Gaiman, Patagonia in South America in July and August of 1968.

Oral history of coal mining disputes in South Wales :[field work collection]

Description: 7 sound reels
Contents: Oral history of coal mining in South Wales, in Welsh and English.

Untitled materials collected in Aberystwyth and Machynlleth, Wales

Description: 2 sound reels
Contents: Welsh folklore material collected in Aberystwyth and Machynlleth, Wales in June and July 1974. This material also contains some Irish-language recordings and is part of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature at Harvard series. The material has yet to be digitized.

Scottish Gaelic

Harvard has a collection of audio recordings of Scottish Gaelic folklore materials collected in Nova Scotia, Québec, and Ontario in the second half of the twentieth century. The materials, known collectively as the Charles William Dunn Collection, include oral histories, folktales, folk music, a sermon, and hymns, in both Scottish Gaelic and English.

[Scottish Gaelic field recordings, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia] :[field work collection]

Description: 9 sound reels
Contents: Scottish Gaelic folklore collected in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1941.

[Scottish Gaelic field recordings from Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario] :[field work collection]

Description: 20 sound reels
Contents: Scottish Gaelic traditions, stories, and songs collected in Nova Scotia, Québec, and Ontario. 

Scottish Gaelic :[traditional music recorded in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Description: 7 sound reels
Contents: Scottish Gaelic folklore collected in Broad Cove, Iona, Glendale, and Saint Joseph du Moine, Nova Scotia.

[Scottish Gaelic traditional music] :[field work collection]

Description: 3 sound reels
Contents: Scottish Gaelic songs collected in Grand Mira, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1969. 

[Scottish Gaelic folk culture :[field work collection] : conversations, songs, and recitations]

Description: 1 sound reel
Contents: Oral history and songs in Scottish Gaelic and English collected in Kincardine, Ontario. 

Scottish Gaelic religious sermon and songs] :[field work collection]

Description: 2 sound reels
Contents: A religious service, including a sermon and songs, in Scottish Gaelic.

Scottish Gaelic :[field work collection

Description: 17 sound reels
Contents: Oral history and stories in English, and songs in Scottish Gaelic and English collected in Scotsville, Cape Breton in the 1960s.

[Scottish Gaelic religious songs] :[field work collection]

Description: 1 sound reel
Contents: Religious songs in Scottish Gaelic. 

How to find?

These collections are part of the Celtic Department Audio Collection at Harvard Library series. They are located in Widener Library offsite storage.

How to find the collections in the library catalog:

  • Open HOLLIS, Harvard's library catalog.
  • Above the search bar, there are options for different types of searches. Select Advanced Search
  • An expanded search box will appear. At the top of the search box is the text Search for and options to search the entire system or to limit the search to only materials which Harvard holds. There are also the options to search for reserves or by barcode. Select Library Catalog. This will limit the search to only materials which Harvard holds.
  • In the expanded search box is the text Search Filters. Below this text is a row of three search boxes. The first box limits what the search will look at (e.g. author names, titles, etc.). Click the downward arrow in the first box and select Series from the dropdown menu. This tells the search to look for a series.
  • The second box limits whether the search looks at everything which contains the words searched for, or whether the search only looks at things which match the search words exactly. Click the downward arrow in the second box and select contains from the drop-down menu. This tells the search to include any series which contain at least part of the series title searched for.
  • The third box is where search words are entered. The audio recordings are all in the series called "Celtic Dept. audio collection at Harvard Library".  Type Celtic Dept. audio collection in the third box. 
  • Select the Search button in the bottom right corner of the expanded search box. 

This search will retrieve all the materials in the Celtic Department Audio Collection at Harvard Library.

The search can be further narrowed down by language or place by selecting the options in the Refine my results panel down the right side of the screen. 

How to access?

Materials in these collections are on sound tape reels, DAT sound cassettes, and sound discs. These have been converted to digital audio files and are available online through Harvard Library.

How to access the collections:

  • Select the collection titles above. Each title links to the HOLLIS catalog record for the selected materials. The catalog records contain links to the digital audio files. 


  • Open HOLLIS, Harvard's library catalog.
  • Follow the steps in the "How to find?" section above to find the catalog records for all of the materials in the Celtic Department Audio Collection OR type in the title for a specific group of reels to find the catalog record for those specific materials. Select the catalog record for the desired materials. The catalog record will contain links to the digital audio files for those sound reels.

Folklore Audiovisual Collections

Ethnographic Video Online

Ethnographic Video Online is a comprehensive online resource for the study of human culture, behavior and society around the world. The collections contain over 1,300 hours of streaming video, including ethnographic films, documentaries, select feature films, and previously unpublished fieldwork. Intended to be a visual encyclopedia of human behavior and culture, online in streaming video. Includes footage from every continent and hundreds of unique cultures. Thematic areas include: language and culture, kinesthetics, body language, food and foraging, cooking, economic systems, social stratification and status, caste systems and slavery, male and female roles, kinship and families, political organization, conflict and conflict resolution, religion and magic, music and the arts, culture and personality, and sex, gender, and family roles.

Ethnographic Video for Instruction & Analysis (EVIA) Digital Archive

Ethnographic Video for Instruction & Analysis (EVIA) is a digital archive of ethnographic field video specializing in the fields of ethnomusicology, folklore, anthropology, and dance ethnology. Collections in the EVIA Digital Archive Project represent a diverse range of performance traditions from around the world.

Smithsonian Global Sound

Smithsonian Global Sound is an international collection of all types of recorded sound. The tracks include folk, popular, and classical world music, non-musical recordings such as speeches and oral histories, and a variety of natural, animal, and human sounds. Global Sound recordings have been collected from archives such as Smithsonian Folkways, the International Library of African Music, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and the Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology. The collection can be searched with keywords and by geographic area, cultural group, instrument, and language.

Music Online

Music Online will offer more than 400,000 audio tracks, 400,000 scores, 100,000 pages of music reference, and over 500 hours of video. Every object in the collection is indexed for subjects, historical events, genres, people, cultural groups, places, time periods, ensembles. As a result, students and scholars can combine keyword and fielded search capabilities to frame creative and highly targeted queries.

Naxos Music Online

Naxos Music Library provides online streaming audio access to the entire Naxos, Marco Polo, and Dacapo catalogs of recordings. The resource currently comprises 85,000 tracks, including classical music, jazz, world, folk and Chinese music, searchable by composer, artist, period, year of composition, instrument or genre. Searchable full text of the CD liner notes, as well as biographical information about selected composers and performers, supplements the recordings. Naxos's new releases (currently around 200 CDs per year) are continually added to the library.

Archive of Traditional Music

Indiana University's Archive of Traditional Music documents the history of ethnographic sound recording, from wax cylinders made during museum expeditions in the 1890s to recent commercial releases on compact disc. The core of the collection consists of more than 3,000 field collections–unique and irreplaceable recordings collected by anthropologists, linguists, ethnomusicologists, folklorists, and others throughout the world. The collection has extensive holdings of Native American, African, and Latin American music and spoken word, and several large collections of early jazz and blues 78s.


Folkstreams is a database of American folklore films. It is a non-profit organization that aims to collect and make available online documentary films about American folk art and culture. It preserves the activities, voices, and experiences of members of America's diverse regional, ethnic, religious, and occupational cultures. The films show a variety of documentary approaches but most commonly let the people themselves present their own circumstances, values, and arts.

Penn Museum Video Archive

The Penn Museum has an extensive collection of archival films (that have been digitized) and born-digital videos covering a range of archaeological and anthropological topics.


StoryCorps’ mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, preserve, and share the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 50,000 interviews with over 100,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a CD to share and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Practicing Folklore

Library of Congress YouTube Feed: Folklore

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress produces videos about the practice of folklore, featuring interviews with a variety of folklorists about their careers, methods, fieldwork experiences, and the implications and applications of their work.