When ethnomusicologist and folklorist Alan Lomax died in 2002, he left behind a gigantic library of research materials‚ÄĒin other words, a treasure trove of crystallized musical Americana. Now, a decade later, the masses will be granted access to Lomax‚Äôs inventory: A collection of his field recordings are being digitized, and some 17,000 of them will be available for free streaming online by the end of this month.

Among the 17,000 selections are early recordings by Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and Muddy Waters. Other parts of his¬†vast archive‚ÄĒnamely, 5,000 hours of music, 5,000 photographs, 400,000 feet of film, and 3,000 videotapes‚ÄĒwill be released later via CD and digital download.

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Yesterday, the Global Jukebox label (named for Lomax’s long-before-the-Internet vision of a worldwide music database) released The Alan Lomax Collection From The American Folklife Center, a sampler consisting of 16 U.S. and international field recordings that span the life and times of Lomax. The release coincided with what would have been Lomax’s 97th birthday.  [via Rolling Stone]