Scenes from Smithsonian Folklife Festivals in 1982, 1983, and 1984, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. Accession 00-132.

Here At The Smithsonian: Celebrating the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The 2021 Smithsonian Folklife Festival begins this weekend. Let’s take a look back at past festivals.

Before the age of YouTube and Instagram, public audiences learned about the happenings at the Smithsonian in newspapers, on the radio, and via public television programming. Between 1982 and 1989, TV viewers could catch up with the Smithsonian’s latest exhibitions and research activities through short video features in a series called Here At The Smithsonian.

This year, the 2021 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will take place online from June 25-27. In anticipation of this year’s festival, take a look at the festivals of 1982, 1983, and 1984.

Our first video, called “Horse Races on the Mall,” features scenes from the 16th Annual Festival of American Folklife, held in 1982. The festival explored Korean culture, Hambone music from Sea Island, Georgia, and a spotlight on all things Oklahoma. Some of the highlights of the Oklahoma program were horce racing, a 40-foot oil well, and a demonstration of native craftwork.

In our second video, “France Meets New Jersey,” we catch a glimpse of the 17th Annual Festival of American Folklife from 1983. The main attractions that year were the silk loom from Paterson, New Jersey, and the the French art of basket weaving. Two artists, Rafael Cepeda and Stanley Hicks, who were chosen for the National Heritage Fellowship program, are featured performing the music that earned them a spot in the program.

The third video, “Celebrating American Folklife,” highlights programs from the 18th Annual Festival of American Folklife, held in 1984. The primary focus of that year’s festival was the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Alaska’s statehood, Black urban expressive culture from Philadelphia, and theme of passing down traditions from one generation to the next.

Tune in on the last Tuesday of each month to explore more video features from Here at the Smithsonian. Interested in more? Head to our YouTube playlist of recently-uploaded clips from the series.


  • Office of Telecommunications Productions, 1982-1989, Accession 00-132, Smithsonian Institution Archive


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