Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Receives $1.5 Million Philanthropic Gift To Fund Cultural Sustainability Program

November 4, 2019
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The Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has recently received $1.5 million from Ferring Pharmaceuticals for its Cultural Sustainability Program. Ferring’s latest contribution, and the center’s largest gift to date, provides the resources necessary to build long-term infrastructure for the center’s Cultural Sustainability Program.

For more than 50 years, the center has worked with communities across the United States and around the world to document, preserve and present their cultural heritage to diverse audiences. Through this work, the center has seen a common and alarming thread: a significant and accelerating decline in cultural vitality. Globalization connects people in new ways, but it is also a major threat to the world’s cultural diversity. Social and economic forces pressure traditional cultures to assimilate. Urbanization, political oppression, war, genocide, climate change and mass production of culture wreak havoc on Indigenous communities and their individual members’ sense of identity and belonging. What is at stake is enormous: the extinction of Indigenous languages, art and craft, traditions and economic self-sufficiency. 

The Cultural Sustainability Program works with communities to design and implement strategies to sustain their languages and cultural heritage. Community needs drive the work, which uses the center’s knowledge, experience and networks to find solutions based on specific social, economic and cultural contexts. The program seeks to understand and mitigate threats to cultural sustainability; scale the center’s impact through partnerships, convenings and thought leadership; and transform public understanding about cultural diversity.

“This gift allows the center to continue and expand our efforts to strengthen communities across the United States and around the world,” said Michael Atwood Mason, the center’s director. “Our approach is rooted in international research, and we have piloted these practical initiatives in recent years. This gift from Ferring allows the center to scale the impact of the Cultural Sustainability Program.” 

Three key initiatives of the Cultural Sustainability Program:

  • The Language Revitalization Initiative will address the global need for localized informal training in linguistics, language revitalization and Indigenous language teaching.
  • The Indigenous Media Hub will collaborate with communities, organizations and coalitions that are defining and developing Indigenous film and media practice to create a network and a platform for promotion, dialogue and resources to support Indigenous filmmakers, activists and scholars.
  • The Cultural Industries Initiative will support the development of cultural practices that reinforce community development, including research, training and networking. It will address market access for artisans, community-based tourism and cultural heritage organizations.

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage uses the power of culture to increase understanding, strengthen communities and reinforce our shared humanity through rigorous research, educational programming and community engagement. Through the Smithsonian Folklife FestivalSmithsonian Folkways Recordings, exhibitions, documentary films and videos, symposia, publications and educational materials, the center works to sustain traditional and expressive culture such as music, language and craft in a wide variety of locations around the world.

For general inquiries, email

Ferring Pharmaceuticals 

Ferring Pharmaceuticals is a research-driven biopharmaceutical company devoted to identifying, developing and marketing innovative products in the fields of reproductive medicine, maternal health, urology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, oncology and orthopaedics. For more information, visit

In recent years, Ferring has provided support for several initiatives of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, including the “One World, Many Voices” Folklife Festival program in 2013, the Sustaining Minoritized Languages in Europe research project in 2015 and the Sustaining Traditional Weaving in Bhutan project in 2017.


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