Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

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

Gift Guides

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

Barbara Dane with the Chambers Brothers at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Smithsonian Voices

Meet Barbara Dane and Her Proud Tradition of Singing Truth to Power

From Mississippi Freedom Schools, to free speech rallies at UC Berkeley, and in the coffeehouses, her protest music took her everywhere

Black Banjo Reclamation Project founders Hannah Mayree and Carlton “Seemore Love” Dorsey, with banjos made by Brooks Masten of Brooks Banjos in Portland, Oregon.

Smithsonian Voices

A Quest to Return the Banjo to Its African Roots

The Black Banjo Reclamation Project aims to put banjos into the hands of everyday people

Jim McDowell holds his jug, “Emmett Till.”

Smithsonian Voices

How a Pioneering Ceramicist Is Using Pottery to Reclaim Black History

Jim McDowell, known to many simply as “the Black Potter,” is a ceramicist who specializes in a craft with deep connections to lost histories

Admas. From left, clockwise: Abegasu Shiota, Henock Temesgen, Tewodros Aklilu, and Yousef Tesfaye.

Smithsonian Voices

Why the Newly Released 1980s Album 'Sons of Ethiopia,' by the Ethiopian D.C. Band Admas, Is Going Viral

Admas draws from and rearranges “golden era” Ethiopian music with then-fairly-new synthesizer and drum-machine rhythms.

Three of Yosl Cutler’s surviving puppets: two Jewish characters and one Russian. These were constructed circa 1933.

Smithsonian Voices

The Life and Death of a Yiddish Puppet Theater

Puppets weren’t a common form of entertainment in Jewish culture

After composing and transcribing music for my wedding day, Red Baraat was born. Dave Sharma leads the baraat (wedding procession) on dhol, as I walk with my mother, family, and friends. August 27, 2005.

Smithsonian Voices

Musician Sunny Jain Reflects on Jainism, Jazz and the Punjabi Dhol Drum

While the originations of the dhol are not known with complete certainty, what is known is that it is a sound that has migrated

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