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