Traditional Cultures Project is devoted to creating accessible, engaging, and meaningful educational resources about the world's traditional cultures. We aim to inspire an enduring sense of wonder and respect for the myriad possibilities of what it means to be human.
At this time of rapid global change, our goal is to document traditional cultures: how they live, what they believe, what they value, and how they adapt to the challenges they face in the modern world. With our documentary material, we are creating an online multimedia archive where current and future generations can learn about - and learn from - traditional communities. We also design programming for schools, sending our documentarians in to classrooms to give presentations about these cultures, sparking students' imaginations while teaching them about the people who share our planet.
Surrounded by a world that's modernizing more rapidly than ever before, traditional peoples everywhere are facing times of profound change. Some are losing the natural resources on which they've always relied due to deforestation, desertification, and industrialization. Others are coerced by economic and political forces into abandoning their ancient lifestyles. And others have embraced new opportunities through technology and education to make their difficult lives easier - sometimes leaving them behind altogether. Between the array of challenges and choices, it's hard to imagine what the age-old cultures that still survive today are going to look like in a hundred years: how many will remain essentially intact, how many will keep their unique identities while adopting a different lifestyle, and how many will simply disappear, absorbed or converted into something else entirely.
Recognizing this, TCP was conceived to produce, preserve, and present documentary work about traditional cultures, in a format that is flexible, accessible, and dynamic.
The web-based design of our online archive allows us to tell stories through words, images, and audio/video recordings, in long-form or short-form, as best serves each project. Over time, these projects can be updated to reflect changing realities, following the fates of traditional cultures as they unfold. Access to the archive will be free and global, making it easy for anyone with an internet connection to learn about traditional communities - including some traditional communities themselves. As the archive grows, it will become a collection that conveys something of the intrinsic value of human diversity, while sharing with future generations the important legacy and knowledge base of traditional cultures. If it's hard to imagine what these cultures will look like a century from now, at least people a century from now will know what they looked like today!
Our speakers' program addresses a need here in the United States. Teachers and students in schools across the country love it when speakers bring compelling presentations into their classrooms. Learning becomes exciting. There's a big difference in the level of engagement among students who are shown a documentary film and those who can meet the documentarian who did the field work, who has experienced the culture and knows the people personally, who can tell stories that are funny and moving and surprising, and can encourage and answer questions. Given a choice, many teachers would invite speakers in to deliver presentations that relate to their curriculum. But most schools these days have no budget to support any extra programming. Our speakers' program sends documentarians into schools that would otherwise never be able to afford it, giving students a valuable educational experience that's becoming increasingly rare.