Smithsonian Global Sound

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Smithsonian Global Sound
Founder Smithsonian Institution
Genre Folk, World, Children's, Jazz, Blues, and more
Country of originUnited States
Location Washington, D.C.
Official website

Smithsonian Global Sound (SGS) is the digital archive project of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (SCFCH), launched in 2005 by Smithsonian Folkways, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution. Its stated mission is to preserve and disseminate a wide range of the world's music. By making the archives of Smithsonian Folkways and its partner organizations available for online purchase and downloading, Smithsonian Global Sound brings the promotion and preservation of local traditions into the global digital age.


Part of SGS’s mission is to support local musicians and traditions from around the globe through international recognition, the payment of royalties, and partnership with regional archives. SGS collaborates with institutions around the planet to record, catalog and digitize music and other verbal arts and distribute them via the Internet. It promotes the honoring of intellectual-property rights of composers, musicians, and producers by ensuring that royalties are paid to artists and institutions, internationally.

As of September 1, 2009, Smithsonian Global Sound was combined with Smithsonian Folkways to provide a single destination for access to all the recordings, videos, and educational resources of Smithsonian Folkways and partner archives. Going forward, the activities of Smithsonian Global Sound will continue under the name Smithsonian Folkways.


The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage began the mission of recording, archiving, and distributing the world's music in 1987, the year it acquired Folkways Records and its archive of 2,168 album titles. The Center maintains the original catalog in print, along with some 300 titles, newly recorded or re-released from the archive.

In February 2005, Smithsonian Global Sound was created to digitize this vast collection of recordings and make it available in new media. It now offers nearly the entire Folkways and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings catalogues and the collections of two regional archives: the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology (ARCE), founded in 1982 to preserve collections of Indian music and oral traditions in New Delhi, India and the International Library of African Music (ILAM), established in Grahamstown, South Africa in 1954 as a repository of African music.

Global Sound plans on extending its offerings through agreements with other archives of traditional and classical music. To deliver high-quality audio, SGS assists partner-archives in acquiring digital recording and processing equipment and supporting technical training in its use. Global Sound is currently in negotiation with other archives and organizations from around the world for partnership with SGS. The Smithsonian has agreements for various online music vendors such as iTunes and eMusic, as well as a partnership with Alexander Street Press for use by universities.


The Creativity and Culture Program and the Program Investment Fund of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Paul Allen Foundation for Music have both provided initial support to Smithsonian Global Sound.

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