World Jukebox

Before the Internet enabled us to document anything with the mere press of a button, it took dedicated labor to make sure the world’s cultural history wasn’t lost to the wind. The folklorists who found and recorded ancient songs and stories preserved oral traditions for future generations, linking our shared histories — and destinies.

The dedication of American folklorist and ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, above, to preservation is nonpareil, and his vision of cultural equity will be fulfilled, thanks to the Internet. Globaljukeboxrecords.com will offer Lomax’s digitized archives — more than 5,000 recordings, plus films, videos, photographs and manuscripts — with about 17,000 music tracks available for free streaming later this month.

You can get a taste of the archive now with “The Alan Lomax Collection From the American Folklife Center,” compiled by former D.C. music mainstay Don Fleming. Sixteen folk songs from the U.S., North Africa, the Soviet Union and more — recorded between 1947 and 1982 — document Lomax’s life in transit. Find it at Loc.gov/folklife/lomax.

Though Lomax died in 2002 at 87, his work will live forever online.

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Rachel Kaufman · February 5, 2012