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At the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, we acknowledge a significant and accelerating decline in cultural vitality. Globalization connects us in new ways, but it is also a major threat to the world’s cultural diversity. Social and economic forces pressure traditional cultures to assimilate. Urbanization, political oppression, war, genocide, climate change, and mass production of culture wreak havoc on Indigenous communities and their individual members’ sense of identity and belonging.

What is at stake is enormous: the extinction of Indigenous languages, art and craft, traditions, and economic self-sufficiency.

The Center’s Cultural Sustainability program works with communities to design and implement strategies to sustain their linguistic and cultural heritage. Community needs drive the work, which uses the Center’s knowledge, experience, and networks to innovate solutions based on specific social, economic, and cultural contexts.

Program Goals
  • Understand and mitigate threats to cultural sustainability
  • Scale our impact through partnerships, convenings, and thought leadership
  • Transform public understanding about cultural diversity
Guiding Principles
  • We ensure that all projects are community-based and built through local partnerships
  • We are committed to multi-generational engagement
  • We strive to identify locally appropriate solutions
  • We evaluate all activities for impact
  • We apply adaptive management, continually learning from evaluations of our work

Key Initiatives

Partners & Collaborators

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.