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MSU Museum, Smithsonian project explores living Native basket traditions with Carriers of Culture

Image 1 of MSU Museum, Smithsonian project explores living Native basket traditions with Carriers of Culture ExhibitThe MSU Museum is working with Native basket organizations and scholars and with the Smithsonian Institution to develop a centerpiece program for the 2006 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, June 30-July 11, 2006, expected to draw more than 1 million visitors to the "nation's front lawn" at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The Carriers of Culture: Living Native Basket Traditions project, already three years in the making, examines the creative vitality and diversity of Native basket traditions significant in the artistic expressive heritage of the United States, Canada -- within distinct tribal groups and First Nations. Contemporary Native basket traditions in Hawaii and North America reveal baskets and their makers are -- literally and symbolically -- "carriers of culture."

"Contemporary Native baskets are powerful physical forms of expressive culture," explains C. Kurt Dewhurst, MSU Museum director and cocurator of the exhibit. "There is a growing interest among many tribal groups today to conserve and sustain the cultural traditions associated with the making and use of baskets. This project examines the current practices and responses to current social forces to sustain these rich and varied cultural traditions."

The MSU Museum became Michigan's first Smithsonian Institution affiliate in 2001, formalizing a long-standing partnership in research, field work, exhibition development, and educational programs. "Carriers of Culture" has received national, competitive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Image 2 of MSU Museum, Smithsonian project explores living Native basket traditions with Carriers of Culture ExhibitNext, a preview exhibit will be installed at the new National Museum of the American Indian on the Smithsonian museum complex on the national mall, June-September. Then, a 3,500-square-foot exhibit is scheduled to open in 2007 at the MSU Museum. From there, Carriers of Culture will travel to major exhibition venues in the U.S. and overseas.

"The objects will represent as much breadth of representation as possible of basket organizations, tribes, techniques, traditions, and forms," notes the exhibit's organizer Marsha MacDowell, MSU Museum curator of folk arts and MSU professor of art and art history. First-person Native voice, photographs, and videos of basketmaking and interactive areas to try basic weaving techniques will also help tell the story.

Read more about the MSU Museum Native American collections 

Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at:



National Museum of the Native American:


2006 Smithsonian Folklife Festival Set for June 30-July 4 and July 7-July 11
In summer 2006, the Smithsonian Institution will celebrate the world's cultural diversity with three exciting programs at its 40th annual Folklife Festival, Friday, June 30, through Tuesday, July 4, and Friday, July 7 through Tuesday, July 11. The festival is held outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets, near the Smithsonian museums. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with concerts, dance parties, and special events until 9:00 p.m. The festival is cosponsored by the National Park Service.

  • Alberta at the Smithsonian. Dynamic performances, demonstrations, and educational programs will bring together more than 120 of Alberta's finest musicians, storytellers, cooks, craftspeople, occupational specialists, and cultural experts to celebrate the living traditions that make and sustain Alberta's unique culture. The event will highlight Alberta's indigenous traditions, rich pioneer and immigrant heritage, and thriving contemporary culture.
  • Carriers of Culture: Living Native Basket Traditions will examine the ways in which Native baskets-and their makers-are literally and symbolically "carriers of culture." Through live demonstrations, dance performances, discussion sessions and hands-on activities, the program will explore how Native basket weavers from North America and Hawaii have acquired and sustained their extraordinary skills and knowledge.
  • Nuestra M√ļsica 2006: Latino Chicago, the third program in the festival's four-year Latino Music Project, will highlight the music and cultural expressions of Chicago's diverse Latino communities, while exploring the roles they play in shaping contemporary society, creating community, and confirming cultural identity.