Mission and History

The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is dedicated to the collaborative research, presentation, conservation, and continuity of traditional knowledge and artistry with diverse contemporary cultural communities in the United States and around the world.

The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is a research and educational unit of the Smithsonian Institution promoting the understanding and continuity of diverse, contemporary grassroots cultures in the United States and around the world. The Center produces the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, exhibitions, documentary films and videos, symposia, publications, and educational materials. The Center conducts ethnographic and cultural heritage policy oriented research, maintains the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, and provides educational and research opportunities through fellowships, internships, and training programs. The Center also produces major national cultural events consistent with its mission. In 2004 these included the National World War II Reunion and the First Americans Festival for the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian.

The Center’s activities are funded by federal appropriations, Smithsonian trust funds, contracts and agreements with national, state, and local governments, foundation grants, gifts from individuals and corporations, income from the Festival, and Folkways product sales. The Center’s experienced staff is culturally diverse and extremely productive, combining interdisciplinary scholars with technical specialists. The Center has distinguished advisors and cooperates with numerous international, state, local, and professional organizations.

The Center’s philosophy is to join high-quality scholarship with strong community participation and engaging educational outreach. This has led to activities that have affected cultural heritage policies and practices at local, national, and international levels. Programs and products have earned serious scholarly review, popular acclaim, broad media attention, and professional recognition.

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Strategic Plan

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The 2014-2018 Strategic Plan charts a course for the Center in continuing work in cultural democracy and community engagement.

Download the Strategic Plan

Annual Review

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The 2014 Annual Review includes articles by curators and directors, along with photos, donors, and financial summaries.

Download the 2014 Annual Review