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China-US Museums Project, 2017-2019
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A key focus for the next phase of the American Folklore Society's China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project in 2017-2019 is a program of collaborative work in museum folklore and heritage studies. This program, pursued under the auspices of the AFS and the China Folklore Society, extends a collaboration linking six folklore-focused museums of ethnography that have worked together since 2013.

Specifically, our museums activities during 2017-2019 will emphasize binational work pursued in three interconnected ways: (1) original field research, (2) a training event, and (3) two research workshops. These activities will build upon our past work in 2013-2016 to enrich museum-based folklore practice in the two nations, to foster increased centrality for museum-based work within the larger folklore studies field in China, the US, and internationally, and to enhance general understanding of cultural diversity and cultural heritage in the two nations.

In an intensive project core, a team of American and Chinese scholars—some of them experienced researchers, others junior scholars and students—will collaborate on team field research focused on a rich range of local textile practices that are fundamental to the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of rural Guangxi Province. Through four fieldwork periods staged between 2017 and 2019, this work will take place in Nandan and Sanjiang counties in the northern part of the province, where large and culturally distinctive Dong, Yao, Miao, and Zhuang populations reside.

In particular, the project research will focus its work in communities that have already established local eco-museums for the promotion and protection of community cultural heritage. These two—the Dong eco-museum in Sanjiang and the Baiku (White Trousers) Yao eco-museum in Nandan—are among the ten village-based eco-museums supported by the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi (AMGX), formerly the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. This joint field research will provide new insights not only into textile objects and practices (such as silk production, embroidery, indigo dyeing, and basketry) but also on their emerging status as expressions of heritage as cultural foci for these eco-museums.

The AMGX will host and lead this multi-year field research program, with Indiana University’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures leading US participation within it. Project participants will include staff and students invited from the six established partner museums. The tangible outcomes of this research will include a series of public-facing exhibitions in the United States and China, popular and scholarly publications, and accessible documentary media productions.

In association with this field research effort, a larger group of scholars and practitioners will engage the Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies sub-project through three convenings—a training workshop in Nanning in 2017, a research seminar in Nanning in 2018, and a major research conference in Beijing in 2019.

Project Team

The core project team for this collaborative museum folklore and heritage studies effort is led by (PI) Wang Wei (Director of the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities) and (Co-PIs) Jason Jackson (Director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures) and Lijun Zhang (Curator, Anthropology Museum of Guangxi). Staff and students associated with the Museum of International Folk Art, Guizhou Nationalities Museum, Michigan State University Museum, and Yunnan Nationalities Museum will participate in various phases of the project. The Beijing conference will bring together ethnographic museum professionals from both countries.

Financial Support

As with the larger China-US Forum on Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage, major funding for the Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies sub-project has been generously provided by the Asia Program of the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional funds and support for this phase of the project have been provided by the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, and the Office of the Vice President for Research, Indiana University.


For more information on the Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies effort, contact Jason Baird Jackson at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (

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