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1988 Festival of American Folklife

June 23-July 4, 1988

The 1988 Festival celebrated the centennial of the American Folklore Society, founded one hundred years earlier because of the need to document and study cultures that were seen as disappearing. Much of the Society's attention today, however, is engaged in the documentation and interpretation of emerging traditions and cultural expressions. Folklorists work in inner cities, conduct research on occupational groups, analyze processes of traditionalization and cooperate with other professionals in devising natural conservation and historical preservation strategies, which also promote cultural continuity, equity and integrity. Visitors to the 1988 Festival could learn about what it is that folklorists do and what impacts they have on the communities with which they work.

The other living exhibitions that made up this year's Festival also provided ample illustrations of this same view of the traditional. The Massachusetts program told a paradigmatic American story. Gay Head Wampanoag, Yankee settlers, Afro American migrants, and immigrants from Italy, Greece, Poland, the Cape Verde Islands, Puerto Rico, and Southeast Asia have not only preserved their traditions; through ingenious acts of individual and community creativity they have adapted them and endowed them with new meanings, as circumstances have changed. The Metropolitan Washington program pointed to the heightened consciousness of cultural issues associated with the migration experience. The program asked how immigrants from El Salvador, Ethiopia, China, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as domestic Anglo and Afro American groups historically migrating from nearby states, discard, reinvent, and reconstitute their traditions as they actively make a new place home. A varied contingent of musicians and performers from several republics of the Soviet Union demonstrated how truly ancient traditions nurtured in various pastoral, tribal, and religious environments have not merely survived but actually flourished in contemporary Soviet life. Also at the Festival were American musicians who, as part of a groundbreaking cultural exchange with the Soviet Union, would later travel to Moscow to participate in the International Folklore Festival in August 1988 and be reunited with the Soviet musicians participating in the Smithsonian's Festival.

The 1988 Festival took place for two five-day weeks (June 23-27 and June 30-July 4) between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive and between 10th Street and 14th Street, south of the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History.

The 1988 Program Book included schedules and participant lists for each program; the Program Book essays provided a larger context for the Festival presentations, extending beyond the traditions actually presented at the 1988 Festival.

The Festival was co-presented by the Smithsonian Institution and National Park Service and organized by the Office of Folklife Programs.

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