The label became very influential on a generation of folk singers because of its release of a great number of old-time recordings by re-discovered performers from the 1920s and 1930s like Dock Boggs and Clarence Ashley, as well as contemporary performers like the New Lost City Ramblers. The Anthology of American Folk Music originally appeared on the Folkways label. Folkways was also one of the earliest companies to release albums of world music, including the Music of the World's Peoples collection edited by Henry Cowell. They also released many spoken word albums, and other unusual repertoire. The albums always came with a pull-out leaflet containing extensive sleeve notes.
Asch also donated a complete set of the Folkways recordings to the University of Alberta; FolkwaysAlive, a joint initiative between the University and the Smithsonian, is involved in digitization and archiving of the collection as well as maintaining a research center and sponsoring student research scholarships and an annual concert series.
Since acquiring Folkways, the Smithsonian has expanded Asch's collection by adding several other record labels, including Cook, Monitor, Fast Folk, Dyer-Bennet, and Paredon). They have also released over 300 new recordings.
The mission statement of Smithsonian Folkways states that their mission "is the legacy of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1948 to document 'people's music.'" They "are dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among peoples through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound", and that "musical and cultural diversity contributes to the vitality and quality of life throughout the world." By making these recordings available, they intend "strengthen people's engagement with their own cultural heritage and to enhance their awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of others."
'The Smithsonian Blues.' (Smithsonian Institution's Collection of Recordings from Folkways Records and the Decision to End Its Sale of Jazz recordings)(Column)
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