Association for Cultural Equity“It still remains for us to learn how we can put our magnificent mass communications technology at the service of each and every branch of the human family.”
— Alan Lomax, 1960
The Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), located on the Fine Arts Campus of New York City’s Hunter College, was chartered by the State of New York in 1983 to preserve, study, and disseminate folk performance traditions from around the world, and to oversee Alan Lomax’s collected works and recordings. ACE serves audiences through a virtual archive of media holdings on the internet; a large catalog of publications; and through assistance to researchers, media projects, and members of the public. We actively reach out to other archives and libraries, and to artists and their communities.
The Association for Cultural Equity was founded by Alan Lomax as a repository of the world’s expressive traditions. In line with the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, our work is based on the premise that primary cultural documents sustain societal morale and serve as key resources for all kinds of communities dealing with change and globalization. Alan Lomax wanted cultural equity, the right of every culture to express and sustain its distinctive heritage, to take a place among the fundamental principles of political, social, and economic justice. He predicted that the struggle for equal representation for all homegrown expressive styles — music, dance, cooking, costume — would become a pressing issue in the 21st century. By returning recordings, films, and photographs to people and institutions in the places from whence they came, we hope to further his mission.
From the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, ACE served as an umbrella for Alan Lomax’s research and media productions. As an anthropologist of the performing arts, Lomax developed methods for comparative study of music, dance and language. This work informed American Patchwork, a series of documentaries on regional American culture produced by ACE and aired on PBS in the 1990s. After Lomax’s retirement in 1996, ACE undertook the preservation, publication, and dissemination of his legacy of documentation and research. In 2004, the Library of Congress acquired Alan Lomax’s original recordings and papers. ACE retains digital copies, however, and certain collections and archival responsibilities.
ACE makes direct donations of digital copies of Alan Lomax’s recordings and photographs to selected repositories located in (or associated with) the areas in which the documentation was made. An online digital catalog and virtual archive of recordings, photographs, and performance style research make possible both general access and in depth use by subscribing libraries. We maintain and continually update a database of original artists and their families, so that they may receive copies of relevant archival materials, publications, and royalties. ACE is developing an educational arm which will offer resources and curriculum materials online to teachers, researchers, and students, including (but not limited) to the Cantometrics data and Cantometrics training course, musical maps, and updated DVD versions of Choreometric teaching films. We are also facilitating new research drawing upon the comparative methodologies developed by Alan Lomax and his colleagues to study nonverbal expressive systems (music, dance, and speaking styles) as they relate to new developments in the biological sciences and genetic research.