Cathy Grant participates in the Smithsonian’s Culture and Language Vitality Assessment workshop

Origin: Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Author: Catherine Grant

I was honoured to have the opportunity to participate in the Smithsonian’s Culture and Language Vitality Assessment workshop, help September 22–23, 2014 in Washington DC. This workshop, a part of the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices initiative, brought together cultural heritage professionals, linguistic experts, educators, ethnomusicologists, and anthropologists, along with community members engaged in cultural and linguistic research and activities to develop a language and cultural vitality assessment toolkit. Music’s connection to sustainability and its role within community complemented the workshop’s focus on language as part of culture.

Through the workshop, with experts from language communities, UNESCO, various universities, USAID, the Administration for Native Americans, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of Natural History, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and InterAction-member NGOs, we strategised how to design a tool that could serve community interests and, at the same time, add to the linguistic and anthropological body of knowledge around language endangerment and revitalization.

I spoke on a panel early in the first day that addressed existing models for language assessment and shared models from comparable fields, including that of Sustainable Futures and of my own project “Vital Signs: Assessing the Vitality and Viability of Music Genres”. Analysing the strategies that have worked and those that have not, we discussed how to provide a clear set of best practices for those involved in revitalization efforts, and outlined areas where additional scholarly research is needed to strengthen the case for this critical work. The research and action from the Recovering Voices project is ongoing.

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