Thursday, January 26, 2006

Shopping the Smithsonian

In contrast to yesterday's Library of Congress free resources, the Smithsonian Center for Folkife and Cultural Heritage is mostly a commercial site. They do have quality material for sale. I have several of their recordings and publications. However, I am disappointed that they they don't share any samples of traditional culture freely. Also, they list the Folklife Festivals for 2004 and 2005 in their upcoming highlights section. This seems like a bad sign. Here's something from their "About Us" section:

The Center's activities are funded by federal appropriations, Smithsonian trust funds, contracts and agreements with national, state, and local governments, foundation grants, gifts from individuals and corporations, income from the Festival, and Folkways product sales. The Center's experienced staff is culturally diverse and extremely productive, combining interdisciplinary scholars with technical specialists. The Center has distinguished advisors and cooperates with numerous international, state, local, and professional organizations.

Over the years, I had some short-term contract jobs at a couple of Smithsonian agencies in Washington, D.C. They are a strange mix of for-profit, federally-funded, and non-profit organization, and their administration seemed unintelligible when I worked there. Nevertheless, the Smithsonian Center for Folkife and Cultural Heritage is worth a look if you are ready to buy recordings.

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