Participatory Research, Social Media, Mobile Apps and the Will to Adorn

Diana Baird N'Diaye, USA

The Will to Adorn:  African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity is a multi-year, collaborative folk cultural research and public presentation project initiated by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.  Through the work and perspectives of museum, academic, and community scholars, as well as community-based cultural practitioners, including artisans and designers from across the nation, this project explores the diversity of African American identities as expressed through the cultural aesthetics and traditional arts of the body, dress, and adornment.

Since 2009, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s Will to Adorn Initiative has conducted collaborative research in African American communities, examining identity, diversity, and aesthetics through the lens of personal dress and adornment. Modeled on a pilot program developed at Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center in the Bronx, New York, the Will to Adorn Youth Access Project sponsors teen folk culture internships in eight cities around the US. Sited in partnership with community organizations and other youth programs, it utilzes social media, on-line conferencing and mobile technology to engage seasoned researchers,  middle schoolers, teens, and college students to conduct ethnographic research in their own communities, eventually presenting that scholarship back to their communities.

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