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Smithsonian Festival. Chapter 8 The Festival on the Mall. Festival Description. Annual display of living cultural heritage. Two weeks around 4 th of July. Presented on the National Mall. Cooperation with National Park Service. Free to the public. Attracts one million visitors annually.

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Chapter 8

The Festival on the Mall

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Festival Description

  • Annual display of living cultural heritage.

  • Two weeks around 4th of July.

  • Presented on the National Mall.

  • Cooperation with National Park Service.

  • Free to the public.

  • Attracts one million visitors annually.

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Ritual specialists





Craft demonstrations

Cooking demos


Worker culture

Festival Participants

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Research-based Festival

  • Tradition bearers demonstrate, discuss, and present their cultures.

  • Museum-quality signage.

  • Photo-text panels.

  • Published program book.

  • Museum shop.

  • Physical context for traditions presented.

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Mall Difficulties

  • Drainage problems.

  • Heavy traffic.

  • Dutch elm disease.

  • Wear on turf.

  • Unauthorized vendors.

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Purpose of the Festival

  • Art as entertainment.

  • Cultural advocacy.

  • Education as public service.

  • Knowledge as scholarship.

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Festival People

  • People brought together who normally would not interact:

    • Tradition bearers

    • The public

    • Scholars

    • Officials

    • Builders

    • Volunteers

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Museums are inside

Museums are serious.

Valuable objects.


No talking

No touching

Restricted access

Festivals are outside.

Common people.

Festivals are playful.





Museums vs. Festivals

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Time out of Time

  • Festival a low-resolution medium.

  • Different from books, films, exhibits.

  • Many things happen simultaneously.

  • Not everyone experiences the same thing.

  • Participants report high satisfaction.

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Chapter 9The Festival of India

  • Festival of India enacted in 1985.

  • Total budget of $15 million.

  • Typical NJFF budget is $40K.

  • Festival of India was 375 times more costly.

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Aditi: A Celebration of Life

  • Exhibit at National Museum of Natural History, June-July, 1985.

    • Fertility

    • Marriage

    • Conception

    • Birth

    • Childhood

    • Moving out

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Mela! An Indian Fair

  • Part of the 1985 Smithsonian Festival.

  • A fair with craft, performance, foodways.

  • Some 45 structures were built.

  • Sound = drums and songs.

  • Touch = acrobats and jugglers.

  • Sight = magicians and toymakers.

  • Smells = incense and cosmetics.

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Indian Folk Artists

  • Forgotten and neglected artists.

  • Poverty-stricken and low-caste.

    • Musicians

    • Puppeteers

    • Jugglers

    • Acrobats

    • Street performers

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Transformation of Status

  • Street performers in India regarded as beggars.

  • Their art was regarded as a sham, a means to solicit donations.

  • In Washington, they became India’s “foremost cultural ambassadors.”

  • Status inversion with middle-class, older volunteers.

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Coconut Leaf Fronds for Roofing

  • Excellent roofing material in India.

  • Fumigated in India to keep out parasites.

  • Fumigant made leaves flammable.

  • Leaves dipped in fire retardant.

  • The roofs leaked.

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Problems of Cultural Presentation

  • Monkey men hid in trees.

  • Threw branches at the crowd.

  • Scamper and yell.

  • Officials worried about the trees.

  • Warnings ignored by monkey men.

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Craft Sales

  • Craftspeople wanted to keep all the profit.

  • Musicians and performers objected.

  • Performance attracts people to bazaar.

  • Smithsonian comes up with formula.

  • Basic price doubled; excess profit shared.

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Brokering Life

  • Street acrobatics, juggling, and puppetry were legitimated by Smithsonian.

  • Participants encouraged to demonstrate their art, skill, and knowledge.

  • Participants encouraged to speak for themselves.

  • Festival brought attention to their cause.

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Chapter 15Conclusion

  • Who speaks for culture?

  • Cultural scholars and curators?

  • Politicians, journalists, filmmakers?

  • Television producers, theme parks?

  • Tour operators, novelists?

  • Public relations firms?

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Worn out




Giving to







Sharing with


What’s Out, What’s In

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Curator director

Thing skills

Market averse

Government money



General manager

People skills

Market aware

Earning money


What’s Out, What’s In

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Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2005

  • National Mall in Washington, D.C.

  • June 23 to June 27, June 30 to July 4

  • Open daily 11am to 5:30 pm.

  • Oman: Desert, Oases, and Sea

  • Forest Service, 100th Anniversary

  • Nuestra Musica: Music in Latino Culture

  • Food Culture U.S.A.

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  • Sultanate of Oman, first time an Arab nation will be featured.

  • Musicians

  • Dancers

  • Craftspeople

  • Cooks

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USDA Forest Service

  • Foresters

  • Trail makers

  • Archaeologists

  • Wildlife biologists

  • Engineers

  • Firefighters

  • Woodcarvers

  • Recreation specialists

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Nuestra MusicaMusic in Latino Culture

  • Guatemala

  • Mexico

  • Puerto Rico

  • Cuba

  • Dominican Republic

  • Bolivia

  • New Mexico

  • Texas

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Food Culture USA

  • Chocolate to Cheese

  • Tradition/Adaptation

  • Slow Roast Area

  • The Spice Cupboard

  • The Herb Garden