It seemed especially appropriate to the Smithsonian Institution's Office of Folklife Programs to help
celebrate the American Folklore Society's Centennial. For twenty years the Smithsonian's Festival
of American Folklife had embodied many of the perspectives of the Society's founders: to observe
and collect traditional performances and practices of the American peoples; to study this expressive
life scientifically; to celebrate the diversity of American culture through presenting publicly the
accomplishments of master performers and artisans. Both the Smithsonian and the Society had worked
for a century with this common approach.
In celebrating the folklore collector as a cultural mediator, bringing together traditional performers and
craftspeople with the public, the Smithsonian dramatized what folklorists actually do in their chosen tasks.
Folklorists observe the life of groups at human scale; they interact with those working and playing in their
everyday environments, places in which traditions live; they seek out new ways of informing and delighting
each other. In short, folklorists face traditions newly invented and quickly traditionalized. Guardians of
"authentic" traditions, folklorists today also pursue fresh, emergent ones. During the Festival, visitors could
see and sense, in a tent on the National Mall, the living traditions of folklorists themselves - values and
practices forged a century ago by pioneers, and now conserved, traditionalized, and elaborated by a new
generation of their cultural descendants.
Rayna Green, Diana Parker, Nicholas R. Spitzer, and John Michael Vlach served as Curators, and Ronna
Lee Widner as Program Coordinator.
The American Folklore Society Centennial Program was made possible in part by the L.J. Skaggs and
Mary C. Skaggs Foundation through the American Folklore Society.