106.32 Cubic feet (87.5 cubic feet of papers, 18.82 cubic feet of audio)
This collection, with bulk dates from 1950-1994, documents the life of Ralph Rinzler and his professional activities as Director of Field Programs for the Newport Folk Festival, Director of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (formerly the Festival of American Folklife) and the Office of Folklife Programs (now the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage), and the Smithsonian Institution's Assistant Secretary for Public Service. Includes personal papers, business records, correspondence, notes, photographs, audiotapes and field recordings.
Scope and Contents:
The Ralph Rinzler Papers and Audio Recordings encompasses a wide range of materials from Rinzler's prolific personal and professional life. Predominantly consisting of clippings, collected texts, correspondence, meeting notes, photographs, and production materials, this collection charts Rinzler's role in the mid-twentieth century emergence of community-based and institutional efforts to preserve, sustain, and amplify cultural heritage. As an assemblage of materials from all aspects of his life, the Ralph Rinzler Papers also reflect the many integral relationships he developed throughout the years with his colleagues, contemporaries, family, and friends.
The collection is currently arranged in 9 archival series as follows:
2. Collected Texts
6. Meetings and Organizations
7. Notable Figures
8. Publishing and Production
The papers and photographs contained in the first 8 series are processed at an intermediate level, which means that all material was rehoused in archival folders, with folder-level arrangements and descriptions. Individual items within folders may not be fully arranged or described, due to the collection's level of complexity when it was deposited in the Archives.
When possible, folders were arranged alphabetically within series and subseries.
Ralph Rinzler (1934-1994) was born in Passaic, New Jersey, and was interested in music at an early age. He was given a collection of ethnographic recordings from the Archive of Folk Song of the Library of Congress by his uncle, Harvard University ballad scholar George Lyman Kittredge, and they soon became his favorites. He became actively involved in the Folk Revival while attending Swarthmore College, organizing an annual festival on campus. He received his B.A. in 1956, and did graduate work at Middlebury College and the Sorbonne in French literature and language. Upon his return to the United States, he played mandolin for four years with the Greenbriar Boys, at times touring with singer Joan Baez. During the 1960s, he also studied, recorded, and worked with performers of traditional music, such as Doc Watson and Bill Monroe, both of whom gained international recognition in part through his efforts. In 1964, Rinzler accepted the position of Director of Field Programs at the Newport Folk Foundation, which involved the planning and programming of the Newport Folk Festival.
Rinzler came to the Smithsonian in 1967 as co-founder of the Festival of American Folklife (now the Smithsonian Folklife Festival) with James Morris in what was then the Smithsonian's Division of Performing Arts. After the 1976 Bicentennial Festival, Rinzler became the founding director of the Office of Folklife Programs (now the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage) to establish a center for research, publication, and presentation of programs in American culture and tradition. As Director, he initiated Smithsonian Folklife Studies, a publication series, and did research for the Celebration exhibit, which opened at the Renwick Gallery in 1982. Rinzler was appointed Assistant Secretary for Public Service in 1983 and Assistant Secretary Emeritus in 1990. Ralph Rinzler died on July 2, 1994.
Shared Stewardship of Collections:
The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage acknowledges and respects the right of artists, performers, Folklife Festival participants, community-based scholars, and knowledge-keepers to collaboratively steward representations of themselves and their intangible cultural heritage in media produced, curated, and distributed by the Center. Making this collection accessible to the public is an ongoing process grounded in the Center's commitment to connecting living people and cultures to the materials this collection represents. To view the Center's full shared stewardship policy, which defines our protocols for addressing collections-related inquiries and concerns, please visit https://folklife.si.edu/archives#shared-stewardship.
The materials in this collection were deposited into the archives of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage over a number of years by Ralph Rinzler, Kate Rinzler, and Jeff Place in honor of the aforementioned. From the 1980s until Ralph Rinzler's passing in 1994, the Center received the majority of the audio tapes and photographs in this collection directly from Rinzler. With Rinzler's death in 1994, Jeff Place reviewed and deposited the majority of Rinzler's papers at the Center.
Until her passing in 2011, Kate Rinzler donated materials to this collection, with more continuing to arrive via her estate (as of May 2021). Many of these items were rehoused in the Kate Rinzler Papers.
Access to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections is by appointment only. Visit our website for more information on scheduling a visit or making a digitization request. Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records or audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies.
Smithsonian Institution. Assistant Secretary for Public Service Search this
3.5 cu. ft. (3 record storage boxes) (1 document box)
This accession consists of files that document grants by the Assistant Secretary for Public Service to Smithsonian offices for educational outreach programs among their
constituents. Examples include a project sponsored by the American Indian Program to encourage Native American artists. Materials include correspondence and memoranda, budgets,
and proposals for successful grants.