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Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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June 24, 2011

Material Culture Studies and the Folklife Festival

The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is thrilled to be collaborating with the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) at the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. SIMA, a program offered by the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, seeks to promote broader and more effective use of museum collections in anthropological research. The Festival has been collaborating with SIMA since the program’s inception in 2009. This three-year-old partnership is one of the unique convergences that the Festival fosters, bringing twelve SIMA students to the National Mall to experience the Festival as a living laboratory for learning about material culture. “We saw the Festival as a wonderful opportunity to get students to think about how these materials all originated – their makers, their users, and the source communities that they came from,” comments Candace Greene, the Director of SIMA.

The students will work individually with Festival participants in the Colombia and Peace Corps programs, assisting them with their presentations, watching them work, and listening as they speak about their craft traditions and ways of life. SIMA encourages its students to think about the objects the participants are making and using on three different levels. “One is the physical dimension,” Candace Greene explains, “one is the social dimension, and the third is a more abstract cultural dimension: what do these things mean to people? The students can come back to the museum and think of those same dynamics in relation to the objects that are here.”

We look forward to welcoming the 2011 SIMA students to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on July 4!

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