York acquires Mariposa Folk Festival archives

York University is the new, permanent home to the archives of the Mariposa Folk Festival – one of the longest running and most important music festivals in Canadian history.

York has acquired the records to this premier international folk festival following a search of more than a decade by the Mariposa Folk Foundation board of directors that resulted in a donation-in-kind through the York University Foundation.

Above: Chris Lusty (left), president, Mariposa Folk Foundation; Michael Moir, University archivist & head of the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections; and Chris Mockler, executive director, Mariposa Folk Foundation, view archival pieces from the Mariposa Folk Foundation donation

The announcement was made Wednesday in Scott Library at a special musical event featuring performances by Mariposa alumni David Bradstreet and David Woodhead.

"We are thrilled with the treasure trove of historical artifacts that the Mariposa archives offer," said  Michael Moir, University archivist & head of the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections at York. "Students and faculty will be able to do a wide variety of interdisciplinary research with this high-quality, very relevant material."

Left: Musicians David Woodhead (left) and David Bradstreet, who are both performing in this year’s Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia,  July 6-8

Until recently the Mariposa collection – conservatively valued at more than $1.5 million – was locked away in storage in a downtown Toronto basement. A properly-maintained environment was vital to protect the material. York will provide that and more as it makes the included recordings, primary documents, images and other memorabilia available for education and research.

"We now hope that others will be inspired to donate valuable Mariposa memorabilia to this collection with the confidence that they will be well-preserved and put to valuable scholarly use," said Chris Lusty, president of the Mariposa Folk Festival. "We are pleased that York University will not only provide the necessary physical setting to house the artifacts but also public access for this great historical collection."


Above: Rob van der Bliek (left), music librarian; Paul Marcus, president & CEO, York University Foundation;  Michael Moir; Chris Lusty; Isabel Bassett, Chair, Library Advisory Committee; Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Phillip Silver; and Cynthia Archer, University Librarian, with a vintage jean jacket from the 30th anniversary of the Mariposa Folk Festival, one of the archival items donated

The Mariposa Folk Festival, an annual event that began in 1961 in Orillia, Ont., helped to launch the careers of many of Canada’s most notable recording artists, including Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, and Murray McLauchlan.

The announcement of the new home for the Mariposa archives at York University brought with it plenty of memories of the festival. Poet Don Cullen, a long-time Mariposa supporter, credited Casey and Ruth Jones of Orillia for initiating the first Mariposa Folk Festival. He also lamented the festival’s unfortunate dispatch from Orillia after the second year due to the incursion of a wayward gang of bikers. The festival was left to wander for about 40 years after that. Cullen said, “My heart bleeds for the people in charge” of the festival during those years, but “a group of people in Orillia who really had great imaginations and were willing to work very, very hard” managed to bring the festival back to its original home.

Dr. Bill Goodman, an ear, nose and throat specialist, had an office just “50 yards from Yorkville,” the centre of the folk music scene in the 1960s. As a result of his throat specialty, he treated and befriended many of the folk singers of the time, including Lightfoot and the Tysons. He also collected a lot of Mariposa memorabilia and will be donating it to the new Mariposa archives at York. Among those items, Goodman said, is “one of my treasures which is an 8mm clip of the first Mariposa Folk Festival.” It has no sound, but archivist Moir recognized he had truly received a valuable donation.

Right: Dr. Bill Goodman (left) with Michael Moir. Moir is holding the 8mm clip of the first Mariposa Folk Festival which was donated by Goodman to the Mariposa archives.

The wide range of material in the Mariposa collection, including a large quantity of sound recordings and publicity documents submitted to the festival’s organizers annually, offers astounding research potential for the study of folk music in North America during the second half of the 20th century.

"This truly is a gift that will keep on giving long into the future for the entire York community and beyond," said Phillip Silver, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at York. "This material can be seen as one of the greatest collections of Canadian folk music in existence and we are proud to play a role in breathing new life back into this important element of Canada’s cultural history."

The Mariposa archives will be available as a fully-accessible reference collection at Scott Library in September, in time for the fall semester at York.

"Gifts such as the Mariposa collection help to fortify York’s growing strength in the area of research," said Paul Marcus, president & CEO of the York University Foundation. "We recently launched ‘York to the Power of 50’ to celebrate nearly 50 years of exponential growth and dynamic achievement as we approach York’s 50th anniversary in 2009. To date we have $125 million in commitments towards our $200-million campaign goal. This gift helps to support York’s vision to become a leading international centre for interdisciplinary research and teaching."