Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Folklife presentation, education, and research began at the Smithsonian Institution in 1967 with the first annual Festival of American Folklife held on the National Mall. To this day, the festival features performers, crafts people, and community groups from the United States and foreign countries. The festival was started by folklorist Ralph C. Rinzler (1934-1994). Originally part of the Smithsonian’s Division of Performing Arts, a separate Office of Folklife Programs was created in 1980. In 1987, the office purchased the Folkways music collection which became the core of the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, a rich resource for the study of folk culture and music. In 1998, the Festival was renamed the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to reflect its international interests, and in 1999 the office was renamed the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage to reflect its research, as well as public program functions.

Quilter Demonstrates Her Craft at Festival of American Folklife, 1968 Quilter Demonstrates Her Craft at Festival of American Folklife, 1968
A participant works on a quilt at the 1968 Festival of American Folklife on the National Mall, Washington, D.C.
Festival of American Folklife, 1973, by Neufeld, Harry B, 1973, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 73-6764-27 or SIA73-6764-27. Yugoslav Dancers at Festival of American Folklife, 1973
Yugoslav dancers rehearse on the South Terrace of the National Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History, before their performance at the seventh annual Festival of American Folklife, June 30 - July 8, 1973. Behind the dancers is the sculpture "Infinity." The Washington Monument can be seen in the distance.
Festival of American Folklife, 1974, by Unknown, 1974, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 94-13194. Native American Blanket Toss at Festival of American Folklife, 1974
At the July 3-14, 1974 Festival of American Folklife, Native Americans section, a woman participates in the blanket toss, a game in the World Eskimo Olympics.
Festival of American Folklife, 1978, by Gonzalez, Alicia, 1978, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2005-10440. Mexican Stitchery Demonstration at Festival of American Folklife, 1978
Julia Lopez, a needle craft artist from California, demonstrates Mexican stitchery at the 1978 Festival of American Folklife.
The Hayride String Band, Folklife Festival, by Tinsley, Jeff, 1985, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 85-15097-1. Hayride String Band at Festival of American Folklife, 1985
At the 1985 Festival of American Folklife, the Hayride String Band performs. The Washington Monument is visible in the background.
Junior Volunteer at Folklife Festival, by Hrabak, Dale, 1986, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 86-7301-15A or 86-7301.15A. Junior Volunteer at Festival of American Folklife, 1986
Junior volunteer John McCauley demonstrates marblemaking to onlookers at the 20th Festival of American Folklife, in the Summer of 1986.
Ralph Rinzler, by Penland, Dane A, 1988, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 88-1476-20 or 88-1476.20. Ralph Rinzler Performs at Festival of American Folklife, 1988
Ralph Rinzler listens through headphones during the 1988 recording session for the album "Folkways: A Vision Shared." Ralph Carter Rinzler, 59, was former Assistant Secretary for Public Service and founding Director of the Festival of American Folklife.
Hawaiian Participants at Folklife Festival, by Tinsley, Jeff, 1989, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2003-19509. Hawaiian Participants at Festival of American Folklife, 1989
Hawaii was the featured state in the 1989 Folklife Festival from June 23 - July 4. Hawaiian participants are seen here riding a the downpour in a traditional Pa'u parade.
Taquile Musicians from Peru at Festival of American Folklife, 1991 Taquile Musicians from Peru at Festival of American Folklife, 1991
Taquile musicians from Peru perform in the "Land in Native American Cultures" program at the 1991 Festival of American Folklife held on the National Mall, Washington, D.C.
Rolando Mayen and Paula Kaufman Pose under Signs Created for Borderlands' Program, by Strauss, Richard, 1993, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 93-7523-1A or 93-7523.01A. Exhibits Staff at Festival of American Folklife, 1993
Painters Rolando Mayen and Paula Kaufman in the Office of Exhibits Central's Graphics Department created these authentic commercial signs for the music tent in the Borderlands' program at the 1993 Festival of American Folklife.
Lithuanian Blacksmith at Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 1998 Lithuanian Blacksmith at Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 1998
A Lithuanian blacksmith demonstrates his skills in the Baltic Nations program during the 1998 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
South Africa Program at Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 1999 South Africa Program at Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 1999
An aerial shot of the 1999 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, showing the site of the South Africa program.
Dalai Lama at Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 2000 Dalai Lama at Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 2000
The Dalai Lama, 2000 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
Visitors at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 2002 Visitors at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 2002
Visitors at the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
View of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall, 2004 View of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall, 2004
Visitors enjoy the 2004 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall.
Pakistani Hand-Painted Truck at Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 2007 Pakistani Hand-Painted Truck at Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 2007
At the 2007 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, visitors admire the Pakistani hand-painted truck originally brought to the Smithsonian for the 2002 Folklife Festival.