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China-US Museums Project, 2013-2016
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A key focus for AFS's China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project during 2013-2016 was 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 partnered in this work, which included a pair of conferences focused on increasing mutual understanding of current issues and sharing specific best practices relating to folklore, ICH, and museums of ethnography in both countries; professional development opportunities connecting the six museums and their staffs for purposes of greater mutual understanding and exchange of best practices; and joint work on an exhibition of Chinese patchwork and quilted textiles.

Project Team

The core project team for the 2013-2016 museums effort included 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 Anthropology Museum of Guangxi, formerly 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, major funding for the folklore, ICH, and museums initiative was generously provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional funds and support for this phase of the project were provided by the provincial nationalities museums in Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan Provinces, by other China sources, and by the following US-based organizations: the Asian Cultural Council; the College Arts and Humanities Institute, Indiana University; the Michigan State University Asian Studies Center; and the New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Program, Office of the Vice President for Research, Indiana University.

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, Michigan (home to the the MSU Museum) and Bloomington, Indiana (home to the MMWC). A copy of the conference program book is available here.

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 hosted the Sixth Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage. At this time, staff from the three US partner museums also made professional development visits to the partner museums in Kunming and Nanning. A copy of the conference program book is available here.


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


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