Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

“Music is a reflection of people's lives. It comes out of their experience,” says the folk musician Alice Gerrard, who will perform at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on Friday, June 24 at 7 p.m.

Why Women's Music Embraces the Voices of Past Generations

New show examining the deep connections women make with musical tradition kicks off with a concert featuring folk star Alice Gerrard

The "Gifts We Carry: Sounds of Migration and Memory” concert will combine musicians from several backgrounds and cultures, including Salar Nader on the tabla and Homayoun Sakhi, a master on the Afghan stringed instrument the rubab. 

After Long Absence, the Folklife Festival Returns to the National Mall

The much-loved summer event, featuring the United Arab Emirates and Earth Optimism programs, opens with a concert hosted by Yo-Yo Ma

Since 2017 when the Smithsonian Institution launched its first Earth Optimism Summit, marine biologist Nancy Knowlton notes that positive change is happening. “The price of renewable energy is cheaper than ever, electric vehicles are finally on the verge of taking off, and the world seems ready to protect 30 percent of its lands and water,” she says.

A New Surge of Earth Optimism Takes Center Stage at This Year's Folklife Festival

The challenges are many, but evidence shows that positivity emboldens global conservation efforts

A member of the Young Tuxedo Brass Band from New Orleans poses with Ukrainian youth in Kyiv, May 1990.
 

The Music and Freedom We Experienced on the Streets of Kyiv

The story of a joint Smithsonian-Soviet-Ukrainian program in 1990 lends poignant resonance to Russia’s brutal invasion today

An early 18th-century Indian watercolor of a mounted hunter keeping an eye on a bird at the moment of an attack is featured in the show "Falcons: The Art of the Hunt" at the Freer Gallery of Art, part of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art.

A Museum Show Takes Visitors on a Hunt for the Birds of Prey Populating Centuries of Artworks

From an ancient Egyptian plaque to a Ming dynasty scroll, explore the central role that falcons and hawks play across cultures and millennia

"There isn't a Christmas that goes by that I don't sing 'Oh Holy Night,'" says Irma Thomas (above: in 2019 at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival) "If you listen to all the verses, it tells a beautiful story."

Irma Thomas' Rendition of 'O Holy Night' Is a Marvel From Beginning to End

Soulful Christmas music is an obsession for Bill Adler, so he interviewed the singer of one of his favorite songs

Dozens of Smithsonian Institution professionals share their favorite reads from this year.

The Best Books of 2021

Smithsonian Scholars Pick Their Favorite Books of 2021

The writings of many fine authors support the research and ambitious undertakings of an Institution rising to the challenges ahead

According to the American Library Association, Scary Stories were the most challenged books between 1990 and 1999.

Why 'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark' Frightened So Many Parents in the 1990s

Launched 40 years ago, Alvin Schwartz's spooky series pitted school administrators against PTO members pleading to ban the books

The choir performs at the ruins of a mill in Sweetwater Creek State Park in Douglas County, Georgia

Smithsonian Voices

Hear a Georgia Choral Group as They Rediscover the Art of Sacred Harp Singing

Students find lasting resonance in the words and simple notes of the 1869 hymn 'How Can I Keep from Singing?'

Preparing klulik from Sasoun at Noosh.

Smithsonian Voices

Eat Like an Armenian With These Tips From a Local Guide

Did you know that Armenian culture is heavily gastro-centric? Any occasion, be it happy or sad, has associations with food

Carolyn Smith collecting beargrass in Klamath National Forest, 2015. For beargrass to be supple enough for weavers to use in their baskets, it needs to be burned annually. Ideally, it is burned in an intentionally set cultural fire, where only the tops are burned, leaving the roots intact. Prescribed fires in the Klamath National Forest are few and far between, so weavers “follow the smoke” and gather, when they can, after wildfires sweep through the landscape.

Smithsonian Voices

How Indigenous Ecological Knowledge Offers Solutions to California's Wildfires

“We need to reintegrate Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and cultural and prescribed burning into our landscape,” Carolyn Smith says

Dorothy Gale, the lead character played by actress Judy Garland in 'The Wizard of Oz' served as a lodestone for gay culture

Smithsonian Voices

How Coded Language Like 'Are You a Friend of Dorothy?' Protected the LGBTQ Community

A Smithsonian folklorist explain how Dorothy Gale, played by actress Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz," served as a lodestone for gay culture

Complicated adventures await Loki, the "god of mischief," played by Tom Hiddleston in the new Disney+ series produced by Marvel Studios.

A Folklorist Explains Loki's Place in Mythology's Pantheon of Trickster Heroes

Smithsonian's James Deutsch says that behind the character in the new Marvel Studios series lies the oft-told story of "guile" outsmarting authority

Lisa Marie Thalhammer holds her original LOVE poster with her mural in the background.

Smithsonian Voices

This D.C. Muralist Finds Pride and Power in Public Art

It’s important for her to be part of the national conversation says Lisa Marie Thalhammer

From Insects, their way and means of living.

Smithsonian Voices

Cicada Folklore, or Why We Don’t Mind Billions of Burrowing Bugs at Once

The earliest documented examples of cicada folklore come from China

Elexia Alleyne and her family have lived in what they call “the barrio of Washington, D.C.” for three generations.

Smithsonian Voices

Coming of Age in Poetry: Meet Elexia Alleyne

Growing up in D.C.’s barrio, the young poet remembers a vibrant, tight-knit Dominican community.

Some designers promote fashion lines based on kente cloth from Ghana.

When Is Kente Cloth Worn and More Questions From Our Readers

You've got questions. We've got experts

Chinese poetry carved on the wall of the Angel Island Immigration Station in the San Francisco Bay.

Smithsonian Voices

Read Poems Left by Chinese Immigrants Arriving at Angel Island, the 'Ellis Island of the West'

The primary mission of San Francisco's Angel Island Immigration Station was to better enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and other anti-Asian laws

Smithsonian Voices

The Quarter-Century Reign of the All-Women Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles

Far from a “girl band” or pop novelty, the group’s success is a hard-earned triumph of gender justice

Newbery Honoree Alicia D. Williams is the author of Genesis Begins Again and the new picture book Jump at the Sun, the first biography of Zora Neale Hurston written for children.

Smithsonian Voices

How Alicia D. Williams Is Reviving Storytelling for Black Children

Williams wanted a different story for her daughter—and for herself. So, she set out to write it

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