Smithsonian Festival puts ISU on display


Iowa State’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival exhibit was displayed Tuesday, June 12, located in the lower level of the King Pavilion in the College of Design. The exhibit featured a center column of LED panels integrated with interactive touchscreeen workstations.

Trevor Werner

Iowa State will be a part of a display put on by the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington from June 27 to July 1 and July 4to 8. It will be part of a presentation commemorating the 150th anniversary of land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is kind of hard to pin down,” said Richard Kurin, former director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. “We think of it as a living cultural heritage exposition.”

Along with a program outlining the USDA and land-grant colleges, there will be an exposition on how connections among urban communities are expressed through arts and creativity. This brings individuals and communities together to remember loved ones though panel-making activities, along with the 25th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Land-grant colleges came into being in 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law, stating that every state should have a college to educate the populace. According to the Iowa State Archives, Iowa State was first formed as the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm, and was awarded the land-grant title for the state of Iowa in 1862.

According to Title 7 of the United States Code, the purpose of land-grant universities is:

“Without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”

There is now a land-grant college in every state in the United States as well as territories like the Virgin Islands and Guam. A second bill was enacted a second time in 1890, mostly aimed at the former states of the confederacy. 

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is held outdoors on the National Mall in Washington by the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The festival began in 1967, and it has become an “international model of a research-based presentation of contemporary living cultural traditions,” according to its website.

People who attend the festival will be able to learn how dairy farmers use technology to create a fresh product, attend a mini university course, learn about recycling initiatives, try a variety of 4-H Club activities, enjoy community-based music and dance, and share stories about personal experiences with the USDA and public universities.

This annual festival is free to the public. Roughly 1 million visitors come to the festival every year. About 5 to 7 percent of all visitors are international.

“The great advantage of the festival is you do the learning as a visitor,” Kurin said. “It is an intimate type of learning where you can learn directly from the practitioners of those cultural traditions. It’s not like a book or movie; it’s not like any other experience.”