Tag Archive for: smithsonian folklife festival

Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2012: Dinosaur Dig

Special thanks to Smithsonian Affiliations intern, Neema Amadala (University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada), for this guest post.

In contrast to the University of Illinois’ cool, canopied hard-court, Lisa and I stumbled back in time to a dinosaur dig. It was a 100 degree day (or 38°C for those of us metrically inclined) and perhaps an inopportune time to be outside digging for dinosaurs. In my opinion, the best part of being a Smithsonian Affiliations intern is meeting the Affiliates: seeing the dedication they have to their projects is wonderful. For this reason, I hoped to meet a celebrity of sorts, Dr. Alan Grant of Jurassic Park fame. Not the fictional character but Dr. Jack Horner on whom Sam Neill’s character in the trilogy was the partial inspiration for and paleontological advisor to. To my chagrin, Dr. Horner had left the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival but there were still dinosaurs to discover.

Visitors watching intently at the preparation of a specimen. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Affiliations.

On this particular dig, we were under the cover of the Museum of the Rockies (MOR), a Smithsonian Affiliate in Bozeman, Montana. I watched as children and adults wandered in, fascinated as always, by these prehistoric creatures who we discover anew every day. Festival goers could choose to conduct their own dinosaur dig, learn how casting a fossil works, watch a member of the Field Crew prepare a specimen for the lab or just learn more about Montana’s prehistoric past. Everyone on the dig was engaged and the wealth of experience and excitement MOR brought to the Folklife Festival was visible on the faces of all who passed through on the dig.

Lisa Lundgren, with MOR’s educational team, helped visitors learn about the history not just beneath the soil of Montana’s badlands but visible in its multicolored sedimentary strands. Explaining MOR’s own connection and contribution to fossil history Lisa and I were introduced to Maiasaura or ‘good mother lizard’: a giant dinosaur that unlike its contemporaries raised and fed their hatchlings. There were plenty of tactile and visual aids to keep us engaged and connected to the subject matter and like the children around me, I relished my time with the dinos.

Smithsonian Affiliations intern Lisa Hung with Lisa Lundgren from Affiliate, Museum of the Rockies. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Affiliations.

This time travelling experience showcased the expertise and knowledge that Affiliates can bring to the Smithsonian. Being an Affiliate can be about more than the loaning of artifacts, there can be an exchange of programs and expertise along with interaction with the community at large. Not only did the Festival provide exposure to visitors about Montana’s primordial past, perhaps embedding MOR as a potential stop on a future trip, but also enriched the learning experience that the Smithsonian seeks to provide to all.

coming up in affiliateland in june 2012

The San Diego Museum of Man will be hosting a reception for the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies during the International Society for Technology in Education in San Diego, 6.25.

The Michigan State University Museum will be represented in the Community and Culture Program of the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C., 6.27-7.8.

Following a week of training in June in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Latino Young Ambassadors will be interning for a month at the following Affiliate host sites:  California Science Center, Museum of Latin American Art, Chabot Space and Science Center, Miami Science Museum, Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History, International Museum of Art and Science, and The Museum of Flight, 6.24-8.3.

Folk Festivals: Showcasing Cultures Throughout the Country

“Well, surely I knew what Folklife was, in fact, I was Folklife!”- O. T. Baker, Texas Folklife Festival Founder, 1976 oral history interview with the Institute of Texan Cultures

They say that imitation is the best form of flattery.  So it should come as no surprise that as the National Mall is slowly altered into a small city of tents, culinary smells, and cultural sounds for the upcoming Smithsonian Folklife Festival that communities in San Antonio and East Lansing begin to undergo similar transformations.

A member of the Odessa Chuck Wagon Gang makes chili at the 1968 Festival of American Folklife

This summer in San Antonio, the Texas Folklife Festival will hold its 40th festival. But such anniversaries cannot be celebrated without the key aspirations of a visionary. In 1968, the Smithsonian invited the Institute of Texan Cultures to arrange programs for the second Festival of American Folklife. The ITC Exhibitions Coordinator, O.T. Baker, coordinator of the Texas exhibit in Washington, returned home with big plans–to replicate a similar event celebrating the cultural heritage of Texas in San Antonio.  The wheels were set in motion. The concept of creating a festival that brought together different ethnic groups to celebrate and share their traditions was ingenious. Proceeds from the event would be given back to the participating cultures so the customs would continue to stay alive and be passed on through the generations. And, most importantly, the event’s focus directly correlated to the mission of the Institute of Texan Cultures. O.T. Baker’s leadership and dedication came to fruition from September 7-10, 1972, when the first Texas Folklife Festival was held on the grounds of the Institute in HemisFair Park.

Approximately 20 years later, a similar story played out in Michigan. As part of Michigan’s 1987 sesquicentennial celebration of statehood, the Michigan State University Museum staff worked closely with the Smithsonian Institution to present Michigan’s cultural traditions at the annual Festival of American Folklife. Through presentations by cooks, storytellers, musicians, craftspeople and others who represented the state’s diverse regional, ethnic, and occupational heritage, more than a million visitors to the National Mall were introduced to Michigan folklife. The staff then brought the festival program to East Lansing as the centerpiece of the first Michigan Festival – a showcase of the state’s performing and creative arts. Renamed the Festival of Michigan Folklife (FMF), the event became the largest annual exhibition of the state’s traditional culture. Over its history, the Festival of Michigan Folklife has provided a platform for the presentation of more than 1,400 artists–the vast majority had never been presented by any other arts organization in the state.

Today, the partnerships with the Smithsonian Institution are still evolving and flourishing. Last year, the Texas Folklife Festival featured the Smithsonian Folkways Grammy award winning group, Los Texmaniacs and Michigan State University Museum staff continues to work with the Smithsonian to develop new programs for the Great Lakes Folk Festival.