• Rinzler, Ralph
  • Morris, James R
  • Nahwooksy, Clydia
  • Reagon, Bernice Johnson 1942-
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) Department of Public Programs
  • Smithsonian Institution Summer in the Parks Program
  • Newport Folk Foundation
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.)
  • Smithsonian Institution Division of Performing Arts Puppet Theater
  • Smithsonian Resident Associate Program Young Associates Program Discovery Theater
  • Smithsonian Institution Program in Black American Culture
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.) Office of Public and Academic Programs
  • Howard University
  • Museum out of Doors
  • Festival of American Folklife
  • American College Theatre Festival
  • Voices of the Civil Rights Movement (Symposium) (1983: Washington, D.C.)


Agency History


  • This is an agency history. It does not describe actual records. The Smithsonian Institution Archives uses these histories as brief accounts of the origin, development, and functions of an office or administrative unit to set that unit in its historical context. To find information on record holdings, please double-click the highlighted field "Creator/Author", which will open on a brief view of relevant records.
  • Smithsonian Institution Annual Reports, 1967-1983
  • The Division of Performing Arts (DPA) was formed July 1, 1967 in order to produce and manage programs to increase the educational experiences of museum visitors. It was formed with the creation of the first annual Festival of American Folklife, which was largely drawn from the research and experiences of Ralph Rinzler, who was the Director of Field Programs for the Newport Foundation and became the Director of the Festival of American Folklife in 1969. Roughly 431,000 people attended this first festival. James R. Morris, originally the Director of Museum Services, became the Director of the Division of Performing Arts with its creation and remained Director until the Division was disbanded in 1983.
  • Along with the Festival of American Folklife, the DPA also created the Summer in the Parks program, which was held for 10 weeks in 20 parks and included art demonstrations, jazz and folk concerts, and puppet and film theaters. In November 1968, the DPA established the Resident Puppet Theater inside of the National Museum of History and Technology (NMHT). This theater was open five days a week and provided professional and informative entertainment for children, and later became the Discovery Theater in 1979. In 1969, the DPA was one of five cosponsors of the first American College Theatre Festival, and provided production staff and facilities for the festival.
  • The fifth annual Festival of American Folklife featured Native American tribes from the Northwest, with Southwest tribes taking the focus in 1973. In 1972, Clydia Nahwookey was brought on as the Director of Indian Awareness, but this position only lasted two years. Also in 1973, the DPA completed and published a 6-volume history of jazz on recordings, including 85 selections from 17 record companies.
  • In 1976, the Smithsonian celebrated the Bicentennial, and in honor of 200 years of American Culture, the DPA focused on research and presentations centering on the roots of American Culture. In place of the Summer in the Parks program, the DPA held the summer-long Museum out of Doors, which included 5,000 people from 38 foreign countries, 55 unions and organizations, and 116 Native American tribes demonstrating America's extensive and rich heritage. Five million people attended the 12-week event.
  • In 1977, the DPA was at its largest with 15 staff members, and began coordinating with other Smithsonian museums. The NMHT asked the Division to produce live entertainment for a two week Spring Celebration. The DPA also produced an old fashioned Independence Day celebration. In 1980, the DPA added a focus on African American Culture in America, and brought on Bernice Johnson Reagon as the Director for the Program in Black American Culture. They also produced the Voices of the Civil Rights Movement Project which was cosponsored by Howard University.
  • The DPA was disbanded in 1983 and some staff members were reassigned to the Office of Public and Academic Programs, which later became the Department of Public Programs.

Repository Loc.

Smithsonian Institution Archives Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520


  • 1967
  • 1967-1983


  • Folk music
  • Puppet theater
  • Civil rights movements
  • Museums
  • Festivals
  • Public relations
  • Jazz
  • Education
  • Music
  • American Revolution Bicentennial (1976)
  • Historians
  • Concerts
  • Society
  • American Revolution Bicentennial, 1976
  • Indians of North America
  • African Americans
  • African Americans--Social life and customs
  • Museums--Educational aspects
  • Museums--Public relations
  • Social life and customs


United States


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00431

Full Record

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