Your World. Your Culture. Celebrate Diversity with Smithsonian Folkways.

Your World. Your Culture

The world is filled with sights, sounds, shared beliefs and a common connection to good and evil. Through culture, we can learn, compare, and contrast, as well as embrace diversity in its many forms.


A few months ago, I took my son and daughter down to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC (link: This museum is different than the other museums which sit around the National Mall. The building doesn’t have any corners. It doesn’t contain artifacts from various events of history. It is a museum of culture. The museum contains the various tribes which are within the larger United States. It contains the dress, the food, sights, pictures of their environments, smells (yes, even the cafeteria is a museum as it contains food from each of the tribes represented in the building) and sounds attributed to a tribe’s heritage. On the day we arrived, the focus was on Polynesian culture and in the main area of the museum dancers, fire twirlers, and native islanders with ukuleles proving background music. The Smithsonian did a great job, working with the tribes, bringing their best aspects into each exhibit which comprises the museum. At the same time, as I watch my children watching the islanders below, a few thoughts came into my head. The world is filled with light, dark, grief, pain and sorrow. It is filled with the inhibitions of various people separated by tribe, clan, and family. It is a world of culture.

The sights, sounds, tastes, smells, common history which define a people is their culture. According to the dictionary, culture is: “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time” (link: Sometimes, this shared heritage between different individuals is described as folk.

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is a celebration of our world diversity through sound. That is what we are talking about in today’s blog entry.

Smithsonian Folkways

There are three sites the Smithsonian has dedicated to culture:

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (and Magazine)

Folkways Recordings uses sight and sound to investigate culture. It starts with Folkways recordings, which contains national and international sounds of music. The website is broken down into four sections: Explore, Learn, Join, and Shop. We will take a look at Explore and Learn in the blog post.


The Explore page contains information about the Fokways magazine, carious playlists curated by Smithsonian staff (as seen above), articles, videos and pocasts. These sections explain everythign from the current state of Samba music to Hip-Hop. It alows you to absorb different musical


On this tab, the is a map, with points affixed to lesson plans about a particular culture. The page says: “Free Resources for the Classroom. Please browse the map to find world music curricular experiences from Smithsonian Folkways’ Network of Music Educators. All lessons can be downloaded in PDF format”. The music can be played directly from the website or you can order a CD / DVD of the music through the Folkways site. The picture below is a sample of the available lesson plans:

Each lesson plan, music, and supporting materials (below) are provieded on the site.

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

The Folklife and Cultural Heritage section talks about the sights and sounds of culture. It also contains information about the annual Folklife festival, DC local, Materials Life and other sections.

The Folklife section also contains a digital magazine called “Folklife” at:

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Every year, the Smithsonian has a celebration of culture on the National Mall in Washington D.C. As mentioned above, culture is about sight, sound, smell, touch, history, religion, and shared beliefs of a people. Although, many aspects of culture can be stored in books (or on the web) the best way to experience a culture is to meet people whom are in it. Talking to them and set forth the exchange of ideas. That is what the festival is all about.

“This year our attention will turn internationally, as we highlight cultural heritage enterprises in Africa, Armenia, and Catalonia through fashion, feasts, and other festivities. Expect to experience human towers with the Catalans, Armenian craft and cooking demonstrations, traditional-meets-contemporary styles from around the African continent, and much more.”

As we prepare and collaborate with communities around the world, we’re also planning for the years ahead. In 2019, we will feature the social power of music, as a means to build community, reinforce identity, and influence society, and in 2020 indigenous communities, cultural sustainability, and the environment.” Link:

More information about this year’s festival can be found here:


Culture is something which can be seen, heard, felt, and experienced. By talking to the people in a culture is the best way to learn about it. The world is filled with sights, sounds, shared beliefs and a common connection to good and evil. Through culture, we can learn, compare, and contrast, as well as embrace diversity in its many forms. Much like the Polynesian Island dancers at the National Museum of the American Indian: Culture is something that is best experienced in person.

Originally published at




Life is short. This blog is shorter. You could have spent your time reading all sorts or articles, but I am glad you are reading mine.

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Nick Stockton

Nick Stockton

Life is short. This blog is shorter. You could have spent your time reading all sorts or articles, but I am glad you are reading mine.

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