Mary S. Linn has been named curator of cultural and linguistic revitalization at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, effective October 6. A specialist in working with Indigenous communities to sustain and revitalize endangered languages, Linn joined the Center in 2014 from the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma, where she was associate curator of Native American languages and associate professor.
“Mary will immediately contribute to our efforts to support cultural sustainability and vitality through her deep experience in community-based work.” said Michael Atwood Mason, director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. “She will help to make the Smithsonian and the Center a global leader in language revitalization.”
Linn works actively in language training of Indigenous community members in linguistics and language documentation, revitalization strategies, language policy, survey methods, and culturally based language curriculum. After joining the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in 2002, she started the Native American Languages Collections. Linn’s community-based work, through the Oklahoma Native Language Association and the Collaborative Language Research Institute, has led to extensive programming around language revitalization, including the Oklahoma Breath of Life Workshop (2010–2014) and the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair (2003–2014).
Linn earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in linguistics from the University of Kansas and her bachelor’s degree in American studies at Wichita State University. Linn’s primary research is in the Euchee (Yuchi) language and effective strategies in the language acquisition of endangered languages, including youth motivation.
“Language revitalization is ultimately about sovereignty and the rights for people to determine their own education, culture, and identities,” Linn said. “Working at the Smithsonian Institution on these exciting new language and cultural initiatives will help me affect positive change in communities, and these changes create a more diverse and sustainable world for everyone.”