With the 1978 Festival, the Smithsonian began a five-year cycle of variations on the theme of "community," exploring folklore as the artistic expression of community life, and the pleasure and dignity found in that process. When the Smithsonian Folklife Program staff decided to use "community" as the theme of the 1978 presentation, they were not grafting an idea onto the Festival, but featuring an aspect of the Festival that had been present throughout its history. Folklore consists of the traditional ways in which community people work and play together, and their customary forms of entertaining and instructing each other. Community is composed of people meeting regularly who have inherited or developed ways of celebrating their sense of coming together.
"Community" had been involved in the past eleven festivals in many ways. For communities - whether inherited or joined - serve as a vital buffer between individuals and a world of megastates and megacorporations. They are more manageable units in which all can participate - men and women, young and old - and give some living proof of Schumacher's notion that "small is beautiful." Festival organizers sought to reaffirm that humans are important, and that we are, like plants and other animals, dependent upon communities for survival.
As with the preceding year, the 1978 Festival (October 4-9) was held on a site on the National Mall later to be occupied by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, between 14th and 15th Streets and between Constitution Avenue and Madison Drive (see site plan ). Indoor activities took place in the National Museum of History and Technology, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Renwick Gallery. The San Juan Pueblo programs took place outside of the National Museum of Natural History. As had been the case in 1977, Festival programming in the museums sought to connect objects on exhibit with people who could demonstrate, explain, or comment upon them; programming was again marked by collaboration between Folklife Program staff and museum curators. Festival programs included: