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The Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has received a gift of $1.24 million from Ferring Pharmaceuticals to support a groundbreaking research project aimed at sustaining endangered languages. The donation will fund much of the Center’s new “Sustaining Minority Languages in Europe” project for five years. The project will build on the work of the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices Program and the Center’s cultural-sustainability work. The gift brings the Center to 94 percent completion of its Smithsonian Capital Campaign goal of $4 million.
“This project is the first large-scale comparative approach to language revitalization across communities in relation to broader social, cultural, political and economic factors,” said Michael Mason, director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. “We are incredibly grateful to Ferring for supporting this important work. Their generosity will help communities sustain their languages and traditions for many years to come.”
The project will address a recognized need for deeper evaluation of approaches to language revitalization. It will compare linguistic and ethnographic data from across several minority language communities to determine factors that drive language revitalization. The Center will collaborate with several international organizations and six research teams over the five-year duration of the program.
“My family heritage includes Frisian, an endangered language, so I am keenly aware of the importance of language to our identity and our humanity,” said Frederik Paulsen, chairman of Ferring Pharmaceuticals and a member of the Center’s advisory council. “The Smithsonian is a leader in the field of cultural sustainability, and the Center is the ideal institution to carry out this groundbreaking research needed to better understand the larger social and cultural milieu within which language revitalization efforts take place.” Paulsen also serves on the boards of the Salk Institute of Biological Research, the Russian Geographical Society and the Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan.
About the Center
Rooted in principles of cultural democracy and social equality, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage supports the understanding and sustainability of cultural heritage and diversity in communities across the United States and around the world. The Center produces the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, maintains and makes accessible the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, produces extensive research and educational materials and promotes cultural-heritage policy for the benefit of communities around the world. For more information, visit folklife.si.edu.
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