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Library and archive

The essential folk resource

"The most important concentration of material on traditional song, dance and music in the country."
A Dictionary of English Folklore

The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (VWML) is England’s national folk music and dance archive, an essential resource for anybody interested in the folk arts. Founded in 1930 as the Cecil Sharp Library and housing Cecil Sharp’s personal book collection (which helped lay the foundations of the modern folk revival), it is now a multi-media library of distinction, containing books, pamphlets, periodicals, press cuttings, broadsides, paintings, photographs, slides, artefacts, records, reel-to-reel tapes, phonograph cylinders, videos, cine films, compact discs, audio cassettes and more.


It is a comprehensive collection, containing the largest number of manuscripts in England and providing an insight into history and regional variations. Explore the catalogue of printed literature

Recent projects include Take 6 project, a searchable database of manuscript archives from several of the most prominent folk song collectors, and The Full English, a learning programme involving the world’s biggest digital archive of English folklore, song and dance manuscripts. Both projects have been supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund Heritage Lottery Funding.

The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) is the library’s custodian. The Library is housed at the Society’s HQ, Cecil Sharp House.

The Library was given an excellence award by the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (IAML) in 2010 and designated status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) in 2011.

 

Opening hours

Tuesday – Friday, 9.30am – 5.30pm
First and third Saturdays each month (except August), 10am – 4pm
The Audio Visual Archive is closed 12 – 2pm, daily.  Advanced booking is essential for access to the Audio Visual Archive, by calling +44 (0)20 7485 2206.

 

Entry fee

Free, EFDSS Members
£3.50, non-EFDSS Members

 

Supporters

RVW Trust
National Folk Music Fund

 

Explore the Library’s collections 

Search the Library’s indexes 

Browse the Library’s catalogue 

 

The Full English

Unlocking hidden treasure of England’s cultural heritage. The Full English is the world’s largest free digital archive English folk songs, tunes, dances and customs. Containing more than 58,400 items from 12 of the country’s most important early 20th century folk music collections, you can delve into wherever you are in the world.

 

Donate now

Shape the Future: support Cecil Sharp House. Please consider making a contribution today. Any gift, large or small, really will make a difference.