Idaho Folk Song Project



In 2013, I visited the Idaho Commission on the Arts in Boise to do a preservation assessment of archival materials stored there.


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In the course of looking through the boxes, I came across cartons that held miscellaneous sound and video recordings.


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Because time was limited, and because I was at ICA only to survey the archival materials broadly, it wasn’t possible to fully document what the tapes were. Also, because I wasn’t familiar with ICA projects and programs at the outset, I didn’t have a sense of what was on the tapes beyond those that were clearly labeled as fieldwork by contracted folklorists.


Still, I did note that some cassettes appeared to have come from outside the agency, and likely held unique content.


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During my visit in 2013, I spent a few hours looking at related records stored at the Idaho State Archives, located down the street from the Arts Commission. While staff at the State Archives was able to identify and supply me with boxes from the Arts Commission, once I began looking at the boxes in the reading room, it was apparent that the materials inside the boxes were not well organized.


It was at this time that I first became aware that some of the cartons held materials related to the “song book.” I had seen the book, “Way Out In Idaho,” so I assumed that the cartons held raw materials relating to the book’s production, but that’s as far as it went.


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I was vaguely aware that folk singer, Rosalie Sorrels, had been involved in producing the book. As someone who lived through the great folk music “revival” of the 1960s and 1970s, I was aware of Rosalie Sorrels and even had an album of hers from that time period. I also knew she had roots in Idaho, but again, my understanding of things was sketchy when I first looked at these archival materials.


Among the stuff was a brochure from a LP Rosalie and her then husband did for Folkways Records—I believe it was her first record, “Folk Songs of Idaho and Utah.”


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The boxes at the State Archives contained some three-ring binders, along with the loose papers and other stuff. The binders contained photocopies, correspondence, and galley proof pages, sometime with handwritten annotations and edits.


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There were also some photos, such as this one that was eventually used for the cover of the song book.


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Another carton contained a card file. A quick look showed that the cards contained the titles of songs, also the names of people and other information.


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That’s about all I figured out in 2013. It was just an awareness that some materials existed. More understanding would come later on subsequent visits to Boise.