Man in suit smiling
Under Secretary for Museums and Culture

Clifford Murphy

Director, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Clifford Murphy is the director of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The center is a research and educational unit of the Smithsonian that promotes greater understanding and sustainability of cultural heritage across the United States and around the world through research, education and community engagement. 

The center produces the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, cultural sustainability initiatives, exhibitions, documentary films and videos, symposia, publications and educational materials. It also maintains the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, conducts ethnographic and cultural heritage policy-oriented research and provides educational opportunities through fellowships, internships and training programs.

Murphy, a career academic and public servant, previously was the director of folk and traditional arts at the National Endowment for the Arts. There he managed a grant portfolio of $4 million in Grants for Arts Projects, Folk Arts Partnerships, the National Heritage Fellowships and the National Folklife Network. He formulated policy and developed guidelines and criteria to serve national strategies in folklife and cultural heritage programs, research and curation. In addition, Murphy served as the agency’s point of contact for Tribal Consultation, providing national leadership to develop short-term and long-term goals for the field of folklife, cultural heritage and Native arts.

Murphy has published three books, four book chapters and seven articles on vernacular music and culture, applied ethnomusicology and public folklore. He has also recorded, released and co-produced 13 full-length albums of original music as a member of an Americana rock band and as a solo artist. Murphy also launched and produced the Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival from 2011 to 2015 and co-produced features on Maryland folklife for public radio. 

At the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Murphy aims to elevate awareness of living traditions across the U.S. and the globe and demonstrate how integral these traditions are to the cultural moments that take place in society today.

Previously, Murphy was the director of Maryland Traditions at the Maryland State Arts Council and an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Murphy holds a Bachelor of Arts from Gettysburg College and a master’s and doctorate in ethnomusicology from Brown University. 

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