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Folk Collection 4

Austin and Alta Fife Fieldwork Collection

Date of Items: 1939 to 1979
Processed by: Originally processed by Alta Fife and Barbara Walker, updated by Randy Williams
Register Prepared by: Randy Williams and Susan Gross, April 2004; updated Randy Williams, 21 December 2009, 5 March 2012
Scanning by: Heather Leary, Fall 2004
Slide Metadata created by: Cheryl Walters, Fall 2004

Historical Note & Provenance

The Austin and Alta Fife Fieldwork Collection is comprised of the original fieldwork (acetate discs, reel-to-reel field recordings and field notes) and slides gathered/taken by the Fifes between the 1940s and late 1970s. Using summer vacations and weekends, the Fifes traveled all over the west, most intensively in their native Utah, with a camping trailer, recording equipment, camera and stenographic materials to collect the folklife of the American West, including cowboy songs, Mormon folklore and slides of vernacular architecture. On their fieldtrips, typically, one of them would interview someone while the other took notes or operated a recording device. They also visited libraries throughout the west, taking notes and making copies of songs and stories housed in regional archival collections. Austin Fife took the slide images.

The fieldwork collection includes the Fife Mormon Collection (Mormon folksongs and narratives); the Fife American Collection (a large body of cowboy and western folksongs and ballads, including collections from N. Howard Thorp, Charles A. Siringo, Laurence White (called songs in the register), extracts from The Pacific Northwest Farm Quad, extracts from The Edwin Ford Piper Collection, extracts from the Stella M. Hendren Collection, extracts from the John Lomax Papers, extracts from the Robert W. Gordon Collection and the Robert W. Gordon: Oregon Collection); the Fife Slide Collection of Western U.S. Vernacular Architecture (slides of western American folklife: hay derricks, gravestones, mail box supports, fences, etc.); and their original fieldwork tapes and collected commercial recordings, which are housed in their respective collections.

Alta Fife methodically organized the fieldwork collections, including creating cross referenced finding aids and metadata cards for each image. In 1966, the Fife's deposited their extensive fieldwork collections at Utah State University Library. In 1972, the Library established the Fife Library of Western Folklore (later renamed the Fife Folklore Archives) under the administration of the Special Collections Department. A 1993 grant from the National Historical Preservation and Records Commission allowed for the transfer of the Fife Mormon and American fieldwork recordings from acetate discs and reel-to-reel tapes to archival reel-to-reel tapes for long term storage and cassette tapes for normal research use, thus assuring both the security and accessibility of the Fifes' extensive fieldwork recordings.

Duplicates (copy three) of the Fife Mormon Collection (series one) and Fife American Collection (series one) are housed in USU Special Collections' Manuscript Collection: MSS 211 and MSS 212. Copy two of the Fife's original fieldwork (FMC and FAC, series one) was transferred to Brigham Young University's William A. Wilson Folklore Archives, September 2005.

Scope and Content

The Fife Fieldwork Collection consists of 125 reel-to-reel tapes, 184 acetate discs, 48 bound volumes of field transcriptions and research extracts, and over 3,000 annotated slides. As well, the collection includes duplicates of the original field recordings on 192 each cassette and archival reel-to-reel tapes.

The Fife Slide Collection of Western U.S. Vernacular Architecture is digitized and all the Fife's metadata has been added into the robust CONTENTdm database. The Fife Slide Collection is part of the Mountain West Digital Library. The collection includes a small number of copyrighted images taken by other photographers. These images are not included in the digital collection. As well, a small number of redundant and poor-quality images were omitted from the digital collection.

Regarding metadata for the Fife Slide Collection: In the inscription field, inscriptions are added exactly as they appear on the marker: no misspelled words, erroneous place or dates were changed. However, egregious errors were noted in the description field. As well, punctuation was added to the inscription to facilitate easier reading. For information that cannot be easily read from the image, and therefore in question (especially with grave marker images), we've added a bracketed question mark [?]. Modified metadata is noted on the original metadata cards. Note: The subject terms the Fife's used, such as grave marker, was included in the metadata record, as well as the LOC subject/genre terms (such as tombstone, sepulchral monument). Great care was taken with this collection by the metadata cataloguer to add subject, genre, and motif terms for easier online searching.

The Fife slides were scanned on an EverSmart Jazz CreoScitex scanner. The online images are in JPG format. An archival digital image for each slide was created at 2540 dpi. Metadata for each online image includes the size for each slide. Color space is RGB. At digitization, if necessary, each slide was cleaned, lighten or darken or enhance in order to better display the images. The original slide was not altered or damaged in this process. The original slides are housed in the Fife Folklore Archives in USU's Special Collections and Archives.


FOLK COLL 4 no. 1 The Fife Mormon Collection
(includes index for fieldwork audio: Folk Coll 4 nos. 4, 5, 6)

FOLK COLL 4 no. 2 The Fife American Collection
(includes index for fieldwork audio: Folk Coll 4 nos. 4, 5, 6)

FOLK COLL 4 no. 3 Fife Slide Collection of Western U.S. Vernacular Folklore
(digital collection)

FOLK COLL 4 no. 3a Fife Slide Collection Metadata Cards
(used in creation of digital collection)

FOLK COLL 4 no. 4 Cassette Tape Collection: duplicates of Fife's original audio fieldwork
(Folk Coll 4 nos. 5 and 6; index for cassette tape collection in Folk Coll 4 nos. 1 and 2) Preferred listening copy

FOLK COLL 4 no. 4a Fife Commercial Record Collection

FOLK COLL 4 no. 5 Fife Fieldwork Record (Acetate Disc) Collection
(index in Folk Coll 4 nos. 1 and 2)

FOLK COLL 4 no. 6 Fife Fieldwork Reel-to-Reel Collection
(index in Folk Coll 4 nos. 1 and 2)

FOLK COLL 4 no. 7 Mylar Archival Reel-to-Reel Collection: duplicates of Fife's original audio fieldwork (Folk Coll 4 nos. 5 and 6)

FOLK COLL 4 no. 8 Cowboy and Western Folksong and Ballad Card Index Collection, created by Austin and Alta Fife. The card index is an extensive resource for locating traditional folksongs and ballads. Whenever the Fifes found a reference to a cowboy or western song of interest, they would take note of the source and create an index card for it, being mindful of numerous variants typical of such songs. Thus, thousands of cards were created covering hundreds of folksongs. The collection can only be accessed in the Fife Room, Special Collections and Archives, Merrill-Cazier Library.

FOLK COLL 4 no. 9 Landscape painting depicting the Bear Lake Monster chasing swimmers (24 6/8 inches by 15 inches). The painting was a gift to Austin Fife by Bonnie Thompson. Unknown artist from the "Bear Lake region," 1972-3. Painting displayed in the Fife Room, USU Special Collections & Archives.