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Collection Italian Americans in the West Project

About this Collection

The Italian Americans in the West Project collection contains the sound recordings, photographs, video recordings, fieldnotes, publications, ephemera, and accompanying manuscript materials associated with the American Folklife Center's Italian Americans in the West project. The purpose of the three-year field research project was to document aspects of traditional cultural expression of Italian Americans in the western United States.

Field research was conducted from 1989 through 1991 and was directed by AFC staff. During the course of the field research, teams of folklife researchers explored the ways Italian Americans have defined their identity as a cultural group in the past and present. Subject areas included public and private aspects of expression, foodways, occupations, festivals, and vernacular architecture. Multiple research sites afforded the opportunity to map cultural intersections of ethnic and regional history. The sites were chosen on the basis of cultural and economic definitions of the West, in communities where Italian Americans have long been associated with the distinctive economies of the regions. Fieldwork took place in the agricultural community of Gilroy, California; the commercial fishing town of San Pedro, California; the steel mill town of Pueblo, Colorado; several small mining and ranching communities in eastern and central Nevada; several mining towns in Carbon County, Utah; and the agricultural region of Walla Walla, Washington. The project was part of the Quincentenary Celebration of Christopher Columbus sponsored by the Library of Congress in 1992. It produced a traveling exhibition and book of essays, both titled, "Old Ties, New Attachments : Italian-American Folklife in the West."