Scope and Contents note
This collection documents the planning, production, and execution of the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Materials include photographs, audio recordings, motion picture film and video recordings, notes, production drawings, contracts, memoranda, correspondence, informational materials, publications, and ephemera. In earlier years these materials were all created as paper records or analog media; ongoing retrospective digitization efforts aim to preserve those and make them more widely accessible. Increasingly, the Festival records are now born as digital media or electronic documents.
Staff and contractors of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage collaborate with Smithsonian staff photographers to document the Festival in images. The Center's videographer, contract crews, volunteers, and interns video-record Festival performances and demonstrations. Volunteers trained by the Center's archivists record and log audiotapes at every Festival stage and discussion area. In recent years, the average documentation of a Festival may consist of some 10,000 images, several hundred audio recordings, and 5+ terabytes of video; this audiovisual documentation is complemented by thousands of pages of administrative and planning documents. In addition to the documentation of the Festival on the National Mall, the collection includes field research conducted by Smithsonian researchers or, increasingly, by researchers drawn from the community, state, or nation featured.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival papers include the correspondence, memoranda, notes, planning documents, and various other records associated with the Festival as a whole or with one or more of its years or programs. This includes, among others, administrative records such as planning documents, contracts, agreements, and memoranda of understanding, correspondence, meeting materials, etc.; programmatic records pertaining to the development and curation of the Festival or one of its programs such as correspondence, reports, proposals, concepts, notes, other planning documents, etc.; participant records such as participant handbooks, participant invitation and contract letters, release/voucher forms, participant questionnaires, staffing and payment schedules, and related materials; and artwork and graphic design files used in publications, signage, and other media as well as associated release forms. It does not such categories of papers as finance and administration records, personnel records, development records, publicity files, or technical project files.
For any given Festival, materials within the collection typically include:
Program books, publications, and ephemera
Program books were published from 1968 through 2011 and again in 2013, and typically included introductory essays and keynote essays on each program, as well as a list of Festival participants, schedule of activities, site map, and staff list. Occasionally, the schedule and lists were published separately from the essays. Beginning in 2012, a shorter guide provided an overview of each program, its participants, and schedule. Beginning in 2014, an annual review reported on the activities of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, including the Festival. Digital versions of these materials, as well as site maps for each Festival except the first, are found as the first series within each annual collection. In addition, the Rinzler Archives houses one or more copies of the original printed versions of each publication. In later years, web resources were often published to enhance the Festival experience. Digitally archived copies of these resources are accessible through this finding aid.
For many Festivals, one or more posters were published. Cookbooks were occasionally published in connection with a Festival program, particularly in the case of a foreign country's participation. Materials aimed toward children or families, typically suggesting activities they could engage in during the Festival or before and after their visit, were published for many Festivals or programs. Original printed copies of such publications and ephemera are housed within the Rinzler Archives; as these are digitized over time they will be made available through this finding aid.
Fieldwork may take the form of photographs, audio or video recordings, notes, transcripts, reports, correspondence, and other documents. Where these are clearly associated with a single Festival program, they are identified as such, housed discretely within the Rinzler Archive, and inventoried as part of that program. In some cases, fieldwork notes and reports may also be found among the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Papers, so the inventories within each program here may not always be comprehensive. As materials are processed over time, these inventories will be updated and enhanced.
Photographs may include digital photographs, photographic prints, negatives, and slides, both black-and-white and color. These depict events and activities on the National Mall during the Festival, as well as informal activities of Festival participants at the hotel or while visiting Washington. Ongoing digitization efforts aim to preserve earlier analog photographs and make them more readily accessible. The Smithsonian's Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) stores all of the digital images, whether born digital (19XX-present) or digitized from analog originals. The present finding aid seeks to provide direct access to a sample of such photographs, although in most cases numerous other photographs also exist in the Rinzler Archives.
Throughout its history, the Festival has endeavored to create a comprehensive audio record of the performances, discussions, and other activities on all of its stages and performance venues, typically by taking a feed from that stage's sound reinforcement system. Occasionally, audio recordings also included interviews with craftspeople or Festival visitors who were not on stage, as well as evening rehearsals and informal interactions at the Festival hotel. Given the nature of the Festival as an outdoor event and the inevitable interference of airplanes flying overhead and traffic noises from adjacent streets, and given that the requirements of live sound reinforcement are not identical with those of audio recording, the resulting recordings are sometimes subject to interruption and technical shortcomings. In certain years, special arrangements were made for high-quality, multi-track recording, even if the vast majority of recordings are done at lower quality. At the time of recording, volunteers create logs or track sheets describing the content of each recording; in some cases these have been revised and corrected and in other cases the simultaneous logs have not been verified or revised. Retrospective digitization efforts aim to preserve older recordings and make them more widely accessible.
Motion picture films and video recordings of Festival activities were created beginning in 1968 (for film) and 1973 (for video). In contrast with the audio recordings that sought to document primarily the activities on stage, the film and video efforts were typically both more inclusive (by covering crafts, occupational demonstrations, foodways, rehearsals, and non-stage events) and more selective (focusing on a sampling of each day's activities or on a single program, rather than beginning-to-end coverage of the entire Festival). As with the audio recordings, simultaneous written logs note what was recorded. Digital video is stored on the Smithsonian DAMS, with ongoing efforts to digitize older analog materials, whether born as motion picture film or as video.