Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 2010
For the 2010 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., I was hired as the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, supporting every aspect of the coordination of nearly 400 new and returning volunteers, and the larger vision and objective of the three Festival programs – México, Asian Pacific Americans, and Smithsonian Inside Out. I worked on many projects and tasks alongside, or independent of, the Volunteer Coordinator. For instance, I was largely responsible for the volunteer recruitment and outreach, working to circulate the call-for-volunteers among the DC Metro area, particularly among public libraries, and cultural organizations and networks such as the Mexican Cultural Institute or the Organization of Chinese Americans. I also coordinated two volunteer orientations; A smaller, in-office orientation for information booth and lead program volunteers, and a large-scale orientation on the National Mall for all volunteers. This included arranging everything from the details of the orientation agendas, to invitations for every volunteer and participating staff, to the volunteer appreciation ceremonies, and even supply needs such as microphones, chairs, and coffee and muffins for 200+ attendees.
Most importantly, I worked prior to, and throughout the Festival with SFF staff and program curators to meet the volunteer needs of the three distinct Festival programs, meanwhile working to match volunteers with their expressed position interests and requests. An example of this would be finding and placing individuals with a specific expertise or interest, in say, documentation, as a photo, video, or audio documentation aide; another would be placing someone with cooking skills or an interest in foodways at La Cocina, the foodways demonstration tent at the México program. When individuals were effectively assigned volunteer positions that they had interest in, or experience with, the programs or other Festival operations would benefit greatly. In addition, the volunteers had a meaningful and relevant volunteer (and Festival) experience. Although I always knew the importance placed on Folklife Festival volunteers, while working on the volunteer coordination staff, I realized time and again just how vital the volunteer force is in making for a successful and significant Festival experience - for the public, the Festival participants, and the staff alike. As a folklorist hoping to continue working in the public sector, I found my time working with volunteers to be a developmentally important experience in working with the public, in connection with the preservation and promotion of folk and traditional arts and cultures.