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The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage promotes the understanding and continuity of contemporary grassroots cultures in the United States and abroad. It produces the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, exhibitions, documentary films and videos, symposia, and educational materials. The Center conducts research, maintains archives, and provides educational and research opportunities.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is a national, even international, family reunion asserting the ability of people to converse with and understand each other. At the Festival, tradition bearers, local scholars, and Smithsonian curators speak for themselves, with each other, and to the public. The Festival typically includes daily and evening programs of music, song, dance, celebratory performance, crafts and cooking demonstrations, storytelling, illustrations of workers' culture, and narrative sessions for discussing cultural issues. The Festival encourages visitors to participate -- to learn, sing, dance, eat traditional foods, and converse with people presented in the Festival program.