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American Folklife Center Collections: Montana

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


Michael Crummett, photographer. Milk River Wagon Train: First day morning ride (image 3). Jack McKuen’s covered wagon and team of Belgian draft horses. Near Malta, Montana, August 30, 1979. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

Montana's native traditions are well represented in the collections of the American Folklife Center. Some of the earliest ethnographic recordings were made of Blackfeet songs in Montana by Walter McClintock in 1898. Collections include recordings of Blackfeet, Crow, Flathead, and Northern Cheyenne songs and spoken texts. In addition to Native American traditions, the folk music of Irish and Cornish immigrants and miners are also included in the collections. In 1979, the American Folklife Center, in cooperation with the Montana Arts Council, conducted the Montana Folklife Survey.

Montana Folklife Survey Collection

The Montana Folklife Survey was conducted in the summer of 1979 by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, in cooperation with the Montana Arts Council. The survey was a field research project to document traditional folklife in Montana. The collection consists of approximately 145 sound recordings, 10,500 photographs; and 3 ½ linear feet of manuscripts that document interviews with Montanans in various occupations including ranching, sheep herding, blacksmithing, stone cutting, saddle making, and mining; various folk and traditional music occasions including fiddle and mandolin music in Forsyth; fiddle and accordion music performed in Broadus; the Montana Old-Time Fiddlers Association in Polson; Irish music, songs, and dance music on concertina and accordion in Butte; a Serbian wedding and reception in Butte; hymn singing of the Turner Colony of Hutterites; the annual Crow Fair in Crow Agency; storytelling on the Milk River Wagon Train, and other documentation of rodeos, trade crafts, vernacular architecture, quilting, and other reminiscences and stories about life in Montana in 1979. The survey team was led by Barre Toelken, and included folklorists Paula Johnson, Gary Stanton, Kay Young, and photographers Michael Crummett, Carl Fleischhauer, Tom McBride, Miiko Toelken, and George Wasson and was conducted from June 28, 1979 to September 15, 1979.

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.

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As poets, songwriters and horsemen, Wylie Gustafson and Paul Zarzyski have pursued their writing and riding passions since the 1970s. Wylie Gustafson's performing career began in his teens. His break came when his band, Wylie & The Wild West, appeared on Ronnie Mack's Barn Dance at The Palomino Club in North Hollywood, which helped them secure a record deal. That done, he moved Dusty, Washington, where he established the Cross Three Quarter Horse Ranch. Wylie remains a full-time cutting horse trainer and competitor, as well as a full-time musician. Paul Zarzyski has spent fifteen seasons as a bareback bronco rider on the amateur, pro, and senior circuits. This experience has infused his poetry with rodeo images and lingo. He is the recipient of the 2005 Montana Governor's Arts Award for Literature. This concert took place at the Library of Congress on October 07, 2009.

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