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American Folklife Center Collections: Colorado

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting expressive culture in the state of Colorado at the Library of Congress.


Howard W. Marshall, photographer. McKee Ranch, hay meadows, irrigation, Silverthorne, Colorado. Vera McKee, carrying a shovel, is accompanied by fieldworker Barbara Orbach with a tape recorder and a microphone. Vera McKee is doing what is described in fieldworker's notes as "changing water" ("irrigating"). Colorado Folklife Project Collection. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

The collections of the American Folklife Center contain rich and varied materials from Colorado that document the diversity of the state's folk traditions. Among its unique recordings are Mexican songs from the 1940s; Native American music; and cowboy poetry. The Colorado Folklife Project was sponsored by the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, working with John D. Farr, representative of the Rocky Mountain Continental Divide Foundation, Frisco, Colorado, to assist in developing plans for an outdoor museum and educational center, 1979-1980. In 1989-91, the Center conducted a field research project documenting the culture and traditions of Italian Americans in the West, including the Italian American community of Pueblo, Colorado.

Colorado Folklife Project Collection

This collection consists of field recordings, photographs, drawings, and field notes from a limited field survey or consultancy demonstrating folkloristic methodology and the particulars of research on local history, material culture, and vernacular architecture, focused on traditional life and work on family ranches in the lower Blue River Valley, Summit County and Grand County, Colorado. Recorded by project director Howard W. Marshall and interns Elke Dettmer and Barbara Orbach, from August 18-30, 1980, for the American Folklife Center. Ron Emrich served as a historic preservation researcher and consultant for the project. Photographs were taken in Breckenridge, Dillon, Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, Rocky Mountain National Park, at ranches in the Blue River Valley and other locations in Colorado, and include copies of historic photographs.

Additional Collections of Interest

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Public Programming

Opalanga Pugh (1952-2010) was a storyteller in the African American oral tradition. Opalanga grew up in the small but culturally rich African American community of Denver, Colorado. Under her grandmother's tutelage, Opalanga absorbed cautionary tales and proverbs while she learned the ethic of hard work and "how to make a creative way out of no way." She embraced the civil rights movement during her high school years in the late 1960s, and began the cultural activism she has continued throughout her life. Opalanga answered a deep call to visit Africa, "the mother of us all," and she spent her senior year abroad at the University of Lagos in Nigeria. As she traveled among the Yoruba and other people of West Africa, Opalanga listened closely to the way people shaped language into story and song, and witnessed firsthand how tightly storytelling was woven into the fabric of human life. In this video, Opalanga tells stories from her African cultural experiences, classic African American tales, and stories from the lives of early blacks in the American west. Askia Touré, another Denver native and a member of Opalanga's extended family, uses his voice and drums to add rhythm and fullness to the stories. Together they honor Opalanga's commitment to bring "traditional wisdom into the heart of the modern world."