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Marsha MacDowell - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Marsha MacDowell Marsha MacDowell

Professor and Curator | Michigan State University


Marsha MacDowell is an expert in museums and communities, traditional material culture studies and digital preservation



Marsha MacDowell Publication Marsha MacDowell Publication



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Marsha MacDowell: Lecture



Marsha MacDowell can discuss the meaning and uses of traditional material culture in the United States (with particular emphasis on arts and health, social justice, women’s work, and Michigan cultural heritage); strategies for co-developing international museum partnerships; developing, maintaining, and engaging users of physical and digital repositories of traditional material culture and data; community-engaged museum practice; folklore and museums; and the development of educational resources and public arts policies related to traditional arts. Current research includes: quiltmaking, health, and wellbeing; social justice and quilts; building bi-national cultural heritage work in South Africa and China; the Quilt Index (a digital repository of quilt-related data) and Michigan Stained Glass Census (a digital repository of architectural stained glass); quilts and related textile history of South Africa; and development of strategies to sustain the Michigan Traditional Arts Program.

Industry Expertise (1)


Areas of Expertise (8)

Women's Art

Art and Health

Folklife and Museums

Quilt Studies

Community-Engaged Museum Work

Traditional Arts

Traditional Knowledge and Educational Practice

Art and Social Justice

Education (1)

Michigan State University: Ph.D., Education 1982

News (3)

Quilts of the Human Spirit

SentinelSource.com  online


Works of art honoring the life and legacy of South African human rights leader Nelson Mandela have toured the country since his death five years ago. This spring, they make their final stop in Peterborough before they are returned to the artists – and their message is as relevant as it was when they were created.

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Enlightening an institution Folk Festival facing retooling for a 2019 return

City Pulse  online


Too old and too white. Those are major reasons the Great Lakes Folk Festival won’t return to East Lansing next year. “The main demographic for the festival is older, white and middle class,” said Mark Auslander, director of the MSU Museum, which has coordinated the event since 2002. “We can, I think, do better. We have diverse kinds of performance groups, but nowhere near the kind of diversity that reflects what greater Lansing has.”

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Great Lakes Folk Festival cancels 2018

Lansing State Journal  online


The Great Lakes Folk Festival – a local staple, under various names, for three decades – won’t be happening this summer. That much seems definite. What people disagree on is what happens next.

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Journal Articles (3)

Michigan Traditional Arts Program at Michigan State University Museum and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs

Journal of Folklore and Education

Marsha MacDowell and C. Kurt Dewhurst

2016 A gallery director, a community engagement collaborator, and a classroom teacher examine the profound implications of opening museum exhibitions about contemporary, controversial issues to public and student co-curation. The projects involve folk artists and folklore’s ethnographic tools to create a participatory space to learn about an issue from multiple perspectives, with the possible outcome of fostering empathy and understanding.

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Strategies for Creating and Sustaining Museum-Based International Collaborative Partnerships

Contemporary Work in Museums

C. Kurt Dewhurst and Marsha MacDowell

2015 Marsha MacDowell (macdowel@msu.edu) is Curator, Michigan State University (MSU) Museum and Professor, Department of Art, Art History, and Design, East Lansing, Mich. She is also director of The Quilt Index (www.quiltindex.org), an international digital repository of quilt images, stories, and data from distributed public and private collections as well as coordinator of the Michigan Traditional Arts Program (a partnership of the MSU Museum and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs).

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Cultivating Connectivity: Folklife and Inclusive Excellence in Museums

Curator: The Museum Journal

C. Kurt Dewhurst Diana Baird N'Diaye Marsha MacDowell

2014 Today there is a growing global awareness of the need to address issues related to the safeguarding and use of both tangible and intangible heritage. By engaging with communities in the documentation of local cultures—especially their folklife, or in other words, their traditional intangible cultural heritage—museums can create collections that will serve as foundations for museum research, exhibitions, and programs that have more resonance with and relevance for those communities. Interactions of these kinds—in particular those of the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the Michigan State University Museum, home of the Michigan Traditional Arts Program, as well as collaborations between the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Great Lakes Folk Festival, and other programs around the world—have served as important platforms for public discourse about a variety of issues and have produced programs and exhibitions both at home and around the world.

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