Skip to main content

American Folklore Society Centennial

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.

Previous | Next >

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.