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Intangible Cultural Heritage and Ethnographic Museum Practice

A key focus for Phase 2 of AFS's China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project is the intersection of ethnographic museum practice and both folklore and intangible cultural heritage (ICH). Under the auspices of the American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society, six folklore-focused museums of ethnography are partnering in this project phase. The effort includes a pair of conferences focused on current issues and specific practices relating to folklore, ICH, and museums of ethnography, professional exchange events connecting the six museums and their staffs, and joint work on an exhibition of Chinese patchwork and quilted textiles. Building upon the success of four earlier China-US Forum on Folklore and ICH gatherings, these two conferences will bring together a broader group of American and Chinese practitioners, policy makers, scholars, and theorists.

Project Team

The core project team for the folklore, ICH, and museums effort is comprised of leaders representing the six partner museums: Marsha Bol (Director of the Museum of International Folk Art), Gao Cong (Director of the Guizhou Nationalities Museum), Kurt Dewhurst (Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage and Director Emeritus of the Michigan State University Museum), Jason Baird Jackson (Director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures), Marsha MacDowell (Curator of Folk Arts at the Michigan State University Museum), Wang Wei (Director of the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities), and Xie Mohua (Director of the Yunnan Nationalities Museum).

Financial Support

As with the larger China-US Forum on Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage, funding for the folklore, ICH, and museums initiative has been generously provided by the Asia Program of the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional funds for this phase of the project have been provided by the following agencies:
Project News and Events

The entire project team met for the first time in Kunming, China, in December 2013. This first gathering was hosted by the Yunnan Nationalities Museum and included travel to the city of Dali. A detailed account of the trip has been published in the newsletter of the Mathers Museums of World Cultures and is available online. An account of the gathering can also be found on the website of the host, the Yunnan Nationalities Museum.

Many project participants, including a large Chinese delegation, participated in the November 2014 American Folklore Society meetings in Santa Fe. The AFS meetings were followed by the Fifth Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Bridging Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage in Ethnographic Museums and Heritage Sites, as well as professional development visits by four Chinese museum colleagues to East Lansing, MI (home to the the MSU Museum) and Bloomington, IN (home to the MMWC).

In December 2014, the Guizhou Nationalities Museum hosted a 2nd project team meeting. Held in Guiyang, this meeting focused on planning the Sixth Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage and furthering work on the quilted textiles exhibition.

In April 2015, the Guizhou Nationalities Museum will host the Sixth Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage. At this time, staff from the three U.S. partner museums also will make professional development visits to the partner museums in Kunming and Nanning.


For more information on this folklore, ICH, and museums initiative, contact C. Kurt Dewhurst at the Michigan State University Museum.

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American Folklore SocietySister Society: SIEF
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