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January Digital Collection Spotlight: Voices of the West

January Digital Collection Spotlight: Voices of the West

Utah State University Special Collections and Archives (SCA) is home to a rich assortment of phonograph records, audio reels, and cassette tapes that provide first-person accounts of life in the Intermountain West. Due to changes in audio technology, accessing these recordings has become increasingly difficult since they were first etched in vinyl or imprinted on magnetic tape. Voices of the West represents SCA’s effort to preserve these invaluable recordings and, once again, make them readily available to the public through digitization and placement in the library’s online digital collections.


Voices of the West contains hundreds of one-of-a-kind recordings dating as far back as the 1940s. The earliest of these are field recordings by prominent folklorists Austin and Alta Fife and Hector Lee, which document the folklife of the American West through cowboy songs and Mormon folklore. Other recordings feature prominent guest speakers and lecturers who visited USU for commencement or other special events, as well as programming on the campus radio station. Most of the collection, however, consists of oral histories with longtime residents of Utah and Idaho. Some of these interviews were conducted based on specific themes, like Idaho’s Teton Dam disaster; life in Carbon County, Utah; or mining in Lark, Utah; but most simply capture the memories of the region’s early settlers, many of whom were old enough to reflect on what life was like in the nineteenth century. Transcriptions, when available, are included in the collection as well.

Whether you’re here to rediscover the voice of an ancestor, find first-hand accounts related to a research topic, or just listen to some good stories from a bygone era, we hope you enjoy Voices of the West.

Funding for the digitization of these materials was provided, in part, by the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts.