Update from the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
By James Deutsch, Program Curator, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage —
Cultural Research and Education at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage encompasses scholarly and collaborative research, the development of resources for schools and educators, professional training, and the production of books, documentaries, recordings, and multimedia materials. Center staff members provide workshops to encourage the integration of cultural education into K-12 curriculum and to train students to become cultural researchers. They also work with university, community, and other specialized audiences.
Highlights in 2018 include:
The Center’s Web pages received 2.25 million visits and 4.7 million page views in FY 2018 Nearly 1.4 million documents were downloaded, including recording liner notes and the always popular Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide. The number of downloads of lesson plans from Smithsonian Folkways increased 12 percent to 128,500 in FY 2018. New Web content is being continually created and published throughout the year, including videos, recordings, Web pages, blog posts, newsletters, and other articles. The number of active engagements with Center content (via Facebook, iTunes, Instagram, SoundCloud, Spotify, Twitter, and YouTube) was just under 17 million.
Some of the new publications created in 2018 include a series on Rigzin Women, in which Tibetan women recount, in their own words, how they sustain their heritage and their livelihoods.asculture bearers. In Tibetan, rigzin refers to an individual steeped in traditional knowledge. Also of note are the Web pages (available in eleven languages) relating to the Center’s SMiLE initiative, which is devoted to Sustaining Minoritized Languages in Europe. Finally, all past Folklife Festival program books and articles are now available online, as well as the finding aids to archival materials relating to those Festival programs.
In June and July 2018, the fifty-second annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured four programs: Armenia: Creating Home, Catalonia: Tradition and Creativity from the Mediterranean, On the Move: Migration and Creativity, and Crafts of African Fashion.
In the Armenia program, visitors could take a class from an artisan in the lively family activities area called the Workshop, join a knitting or crochet circle and contribute to a Tree of Life, learn the Armenian alphabet from a calligrapher, dig for archaeological artifacts, and enjoy a shadow puppet show. Young visitors to the Catalonia program could make some herbal soap, tie a fisherman’s knot, learn a dance, and help prepare for a festa. In the Festival Marketplace, young visitors could stamp an African textile pattern and create natural paints with an Indian scroll artist.
Included in the Armenia program was a lively family activities area called the Workshop, where young visitors could add yarn art to a Tree of Life, learn the Armenian alphabet, dig for archaeological artifacts, and enjoy a shadow puppet show. Young visitors to the Catalonia program could make some herbal soap, tie a fisherman’s knot, learn a dance, and help prepare for a festa. In the Festival Marketplace, young visitors could stamp an African textile pattern and create natural paints with an Indian scroll artist.
Good Work: Masters of the Building Arts, the recent documentary directed by Marjorie Hunt and Paul Wagner, is now available to stream on Amazon through PBS Distribution. The film is also airing on PBS stations around the country for a period of three years (check local listings for dates/times). Good Work is a co-production of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and American Focus, Inc. Video clips and information about the featured artisans and their crafts can be found on the PBS website.
The Center’s Cultural Research and Education staff hosts interns year-round, providing opportunities for students and emerging scholars to gain valuable experience in research, program development, production, and collections management. In January 2016, the Center launched the “Mentorship Program for a More Diverse Workplace,” which offers young women of color—an underrepresented population at the Smithsonian—the opportunity to explore and discover cultural heritage and the role it plays in identity, family, and community. Visit the Center’s Internship page for more details.
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