For the second year in a row, staff members at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage received the Secretary’s Research Prize, recognizing excellent research for an exhibition or publication. Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton presented the 2018 prizewinners in a ceremony at the National Museum of American History on Tuesday morning.
This year, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings director and curator Huib Schippers was honored for the rigorous research contributing to global understanding in his book Sustainable Future for Music Cultures: An Ecological Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2016). The book grew from a collaborative project among nine international research teams, each examining a musical community and their methods of sustaining tradition: Vietnamese ca trù, Australian Aboriginal yawulyu/awelye, Hindustani music, Balinese gamelan, Ghanaian Ewe percussion, Mexican mariachi, Western opera, Japanese Amami Island music, and Korean samulnori. Read more about the project on Folklife Magazine.
I always knew the @Smithsonian had excellent museums, but I didn't realize the full extent of its world-class research until I got here. So proud to hand out research prizes today to colleagues in fields as varied as anthropology, astrophysics, biology and cultural heritage pic.twitter.com/wKCvsXGfrq— David J. Skorton (@DavidJSkorton) September 18, 2018
“I am truly moved by the recognition the prize represents for a project that breaks new ground in our understanding music sustainability in the face of multiple threats to cultural diversity,” Schippers says. “It was the joint passion and insight of over 200 people that led to nine very detailed case studies and a framework to empower communities around the world to forge musical futures on their own terms.”
In 2017, the prize was awarded to Folklife curators Olivia Cadaval, Sojin Kim, and Diana N’Diaye for co-editing the book Curatorial Conversations: Cultural Representation and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (University Press of Mississippi, 2016). The volume includes chapters by eighteen past and present members of the Folklife Festival curatorial staff, drawing on their experience, expertise, and nearly fifty years of presenting cultures and communities from around the world to the American public on the National Mall. Read more about the book and see a list of contributors.
Nominees for the Secretary’s Research Prize are peer reviewed within the institution, and then finalists are recommended by a committee representing research across the wide spectrum of Smithsonian scholarship. Schippers was among eight employees representing six museums and research centers for the 2018 prizes.
Each winner will each receive a monetary award to continue excellent research in the future. Schippers plans to direct those funds toward the “next stage” of the project, testing targeted music interventions by communities, upgrading the soundfutures.org website, and hosting an international conference on music as intangible cultural heritage as part of the 2019 Smithsonian Year of Music.
Elisa Hough is the editor for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.