Smithsonian Folklife Collaboration

The Royal Textile Academy greatly values its collaboration with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage (CFCH) based in Washington DC. 

Launched in 2018, this collaboration centers on promoting traditional textiles and hand-loomed weaving traditions by exposing practitioners and teachers to conservation, cultural documentation, museum exhibition practices, and related skills in the areas of cultural heritage. 

Her Majesty at the Smithsonian, with FRTAB supporters (L-R) Mya Soe Lin, Lee Anne and William Geiger, Krista Amason, and Rinzin Dorji

A team from the Smithsonian visited Bhutan in April, 2018, as guests of the Royal Textile Academy. 

“We’re honored to partner with the Royal Textile Academy,” Dr. Michael Mason, then-CFCH director, remarked. “Traditional culture, including weaving, truly matters in Bhutan, to its people and institutions. Our collaboration with RTA will support the sustainability of a most cherished craft tradition.”

Smithsonian representatives and RTA staff participated in a series of workshops and discussions on curatorial research and temporary exhibition development. They also met with the Choki Traditional Arts School, the Gagyel Lhendrup Weaving Center, and the Agency for the Promotion of Indigenous Crafts. CFCH and RTA reviewed potential opportunities and focus areas for a three-year collaboration.

Current activities in the RTA-Smithsonian collaboration include:

  • Research studies on youth attitudes and consumer demand for handloomed textiles to provide an evidence base to inform the design of future programming and cultural heritage policy;
  • Creation of a Dzongka-language publication to make color theory accessible to weavers;

  • Workshops in culture-based product development and design to engage young designers and weavers to innovate on products incorporating handloomed textiles.

This cherished collaboration reflects the CFCH’s long standing relationship with Bhutan’s cultural sector. In 2008, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured “Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon,” the largest exhibition of Bhutanese culture overseas to date. Led by His Royal Highness the Prince of Bhutan Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, the program hosted over 150 Bhutanese musicians, artists and artisans.