The Western Folklife Center Archives collects and preserves materials in all formats that document expressive arts, traditional lifeways, and the evolving cultural landscape in the Great Basin region and throughout the American West. The Archives is also responsible for documenting the programs and administrative history of the Western Folklife Center by gathering, organizing and preserving materials relating to the Center’s exhibits, projects, events and regional impact, including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Collections in the Archives are heavily used to support the Folklife Center’s programming and outreach initiatives.
The Archives collects and preserves published and unpublished materials in a wide range of formats including books, periodicals, photographs, sound recordings, videotapes, posters, correspondence, printed ephemera and paper-based files. Key subject areas reflected in Archives holdings include: Cowboy and western poetry and music, Australian bush poetry, Ranching, herding, Horsemanship in global contexts, Ranch gear and the artistry of gear-making, Hispanic and Native American arts and material culture, Occupational and new immigrant cultures and experiences.
The Archives contains much audio-visual documentation resulting from original fieldwork. These materials often explore the connections between expressive arts and the cultural landscape, and include interviews, music and community celebrations.
The Archives is situated in the historic Pioneer Building in downtown Elko where collections occupy several connected rooms that serve as storage areas and work space. A fully equipped media lab enables Archives staff to work with the Folklife Center's extensive collection of sound and video recordings in numerous analog and digital formats. A provisional “reading room” houses the Western Folklife Center’s library of cowboy poetry and reference books on western culture and history.
Generous financial support from the R. Harold Burton Foundation, Dick Burton Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Anne Pattee, and individual stakeholders has made it possible to develop the Archives’ infrastructure, purchase specialized supplies and equipment, and implement digital technologies to improve preservation and access for the collections. Funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the GRAMMY Foundation® has supported archival projects specifically aimed at preservation of the Folklife Center’s unique and extensive sound recordings collection.