MSU Museum Selected to Participate in Smithsonian African American Craft Legacy Project

The MSU Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is one of four organizations selected to take part in a project through the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage to expand the visibility of underrepresented local elder African American artisans. The project—Cultural Sustainability and Legacy Planning for Craft Artists—was conceived to assist makers in safeguarding their stories while building relationships among artists, between elders and youth, and with local cultural institutions.

“The MSU Museum is proud to expand its robust collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution on another project aimed at advancing research and enhancing public engagement,” stated Devon Akmon, director of the MSU Museum. “Furthermore, we’re excited to partner with the Michigan Traditional Arts Program and Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences to bring this project to fruition.”

The three-phased craft legacy planning project kicked off with a three-day virtual “train the trainer” webinar Sept. 25-27. Through presentations and in-depth discussion, museum and cultural heritage professionals were equipped with resources and information on how to best guide local African American artists in cultural sustainability and legacy planning. Session topics included community-centered practices for documenting oral histories, digitally archiving works, and using social media as a tool for business and documentation. The six-month project will include two additional phases including community projects and workshops spearheaded by the four participating organizations.

The workshop was presented in collaboration with the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, a nonprofit organization within the craft community sector that focuses on safeguarding artists’ livelihoods nationwide.

“We want to connect with heritage leaders across the map to share and strengthen our ability to support local African American artists,” said Dr. Diana Baird N’Diaye, curator and founder of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s African American Craft Initiative. “The webinars inspired thoughtful discussion and allowed us to share valuable resources. We couldn’t be more excited about the workshops and programs that will come from the program.”

Cultural Sustainability and Legacy Planning for Craft Artists is part of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s African American Craft Initiative. The initiative’s goal is to expand visibility of African American artists and makers through collaborative research and documentation, public programming and community building among makers and organizations across the broader U.S. and international craft communities. For more information, visit

The other organizations selected to participate in the project are City Lore in New York City, the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando, Fla., and the Springfield Museum of Art in Springfield, Ohio. All are Smithsonian Affiliates—members of a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources.

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