You may have heard about the Webby Awards in relation to cool and hip web sites vying for the "Oscars" of the web. Well, some of the categories are less sexy, including "Cultural Institutions", which includes as nominee this year the web site forSmithsonian Folkways.
If you thought the Smithsonian was only museums, and only in Washington, D.C, think again. Smithsonian Folkways, the record label for the Smithsonian, has been around since 1948 (then called Folkways Records) and is dedicated to "supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among peoples through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound." The web site includes the label's entire collection for listening, download and purchase- from compilations of music from theBukhara area of Central Asiato dozens ofPete Seegeralbums or even a collection ofPuerto Rican music in Hawaii.
While you browse through thousands of recordings, you can listen to Folkways Radio playing a random selection from around the world; download podcasts such as "Sounds to Grow On", a 26-part series with original recordings; or findfree sets of curriculafor educators interested in teaching students about South Asian music, the dance traditions of Argentina and lots more.
The Smithsonian likes to think that it is the keeper of the national treasure- the country's cultures and heritage. Having worked with them for a project a few years back to bring indigenous filmmakers from the Amazon to the US for a film festival, I also learned that it is a large bureaucracy where not everybody is as passionate as you would hope. However, it has some brilliant people and I find time and again that the way it carries out its programs is often exemplary. With this online resource, it is opening up its national treasure to the entire world. If you like what you see on their web site and support their work, you can vote for them to get a Webby! Clickhereto do so.