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Each year the Fife Folklife Archives brings many books from their  Cowboy Poetry Library Collection to the Western Folklife Center's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. There, the books—which range from valuable classics to new, self-published chapbooks—are available for browsing.


The Fife Folklore Archives welcomes poets' donations of their cowboy poetry books and recordings.  Mail material to:  

Randy Williams
Fife Folklore Archives Curator
Special Collections and Archives
Utah State University
3000 Old Main Hill
Logan UT 84322-3000


The Fife Folklore Archives, a part of Utah State University's Special Collections and Archives, is one of the largest repositories of American folklore in the United States.  Among their twenty five folklore collections and projects is The Cowboy Poetry Library (Folk Collection 11) described as "...A growing collection of books and other media (cassettes, sheet music, and records) on cowboy poetry and related topics. Assembled originally through a grant from the L. J. and Mary C. Skaggs Foundation, this collection continues to build through gifts and library purchases... The collection includes a few especially valuable books which are kept in the Special Collections vault and the Western States Cowboy Poetry Collection."

The Western States Poetry Collection "grew out of a concerted effort by western state folklorists in the early 1980s to collect, document, and present cowboy poetry."  From meetings on this project, Arizona folklorist Jim Griffith conceived the idea of presenting cowboy poetry in Western states.  An National Endowment for the Arts Folk Arts Program grant funded a fieldwork project by the Institute of the American West (in Sun Valley, Idaho) that was coordinated by Hal Cannon.  Individual state folklorists collected information from their states' cowboys and ranchers.  This work led to the first Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering in January,1985.

The Archive is named for the respected  researchers of Western American folk cultures, folklorists Austin and Alta Fife, who suggested the idea of a folklife repository at USU.  There is a biography of the Fifes at the Utah History Encyclopedia site. The Fifes are well known for their 1969 republication of  N. Howard "Jack" Thorp's 1908 Songs of the Cowboy. The biography in the Utah History Encyclopedia notes that they added "... comparative analyses, cultural/historical commentaries, notes, and lexicons--an effort that illustrated the Fifes' exacting scholarship and enlarged the original work containing twenty-three songs from 50 to 350 pages."  (See more about the book here at CowboyPoetry.com.)

The Fife Folklore Archives' web site also includes The Folklife & Folk Art Education Resource Guide, designed to assist teachers in folklife education projects that incorporate "community traditions and learning styles in the academic classroom."  Written by Curator Randy Williams, the comprehensive resource guide includes information about identifying community traditions and tradition bearers in the classroom; a folklife and folk art bibliography; and lesson plans that include topics such as "Hosting a Folklife Fair" and  "Teaching Children About Cowboy Poetry."

There is an excellent article about the Archive in the Winter 2001 issue of the Utah State University Magazine.

Much of the Archive is open to the public.  Visit the Fife Folklife Archives web site for more information.


 


photo by Jeri Dobrowski, obtain permission for reproduction rights
Fife Folklore Archives Curator Randy Williams (left) and patron at Elko, 2005

 


photo by Jeri Dobrowski, obtain permission for reproduction rights
The library's traveling banner,  Elko, 2005

Consider donating your Cowboy Poetry books and recordings to this important archive.  Mail material to:  

Randy Williams
Fife Folklore Archives Curator
Special Collections and Archives
Utah State University
3000 Old Main Hill
Logan UT 84322-3000

 

 

 

 

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