“A living cultural museum,” would be the best way to describe the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The outdoor festival that spans two weeks provides an opportunity to listen to music, observe and partake in the making of crafts and eat cuisine from around the world. This year’s Festival focused on the Basque Country and the culturally diverse communities of California in their programs “Basque: Innovations by Culture,” “Sounds of California” and “On the Move: Immigration and Migration Today.” Visitors are able to talk with bearers, practitioners, and descendants of cultures that are featured during the Festival. In this way, people can experience and engage with other cultures up close and personal—beyond the confines of books, museums, concert or art exhibits.
For this year’s Festival, the AAA’s public education initiative, World on the Move: 100,000 Years of Human Migration facilitated two interactive workshops for the “On the Move” program, inviting visitors to consider how immigration and migration both challenges and energizes culture. Facilitators asked visitors about what objects they would take with them if they suddenly had to move and how they would cope if they found themselves in new surroundings, to help them reflect upon and even embody the experiences of migrants. The workshop tent buzzed with conversation as visitors shared their thoughts with the facilitators. The most popular objects people stated they would take them were their cell phones, money and personal identification. Other objects mentioned include an assortment of survival and first aid items, as well as their pets. When asked how they would cope with moving, visitors overwhelmingly stated that they would seek out people who share similar cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Many of visitors indicated that retaining their cultural, national and community identity would help them adjust to new surroundings because it would remind them of the home from which they departed. AAA interns created a story map by asking visitors to plot their migration experience or the experiences of their family. The intentions of these activities were to help people understand how we create barriers in our lives with misconceptions of who is and what it is like to be “the Other.” Although each of our stories are unique, we are all part of a larger migration story that defines humanity. “World on the Move” will continue its programming on migration with an ongoing author reading series. We look forward to you joining us during our special “talking-talk” sessions and other sponsored events during the Annual Meeting in Minneapolis this November.
To learn more about the initiative visit www.understandingmigration.org
Leslie Walker is the Project Manager of the Public Education Initiative at the AAA.