Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

About | Research | Collaboration | Resources | Events and Seminars | Videos

Recovering Voices is a Smithsonian initiative to support the documentation and revitalization of endangered languages and knowledge systems through research, collaboration and access to collections. These videos describe some of the core activities and guiding principles of the Recovering Voices program.

Breath of Life
Breath of Life is a two-week hands-on workshop that promotes the revitalization of endangered languages by pairing Native American language learners with professional linguists who mentor them in fundamental linguistics and the use of archival documentation in the National Anthropological Archives and the Library of Congress.


Recovering Voices is an initiative led by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. RV is dedicated to nurturing efforts to document and revitalize endangered languages and knowledge systems through research, collaboration, and resources.

The Importance of Language Revitalization
When a language ceases to be spoken, an entire knowledge system becomes dormant as well. Language diversity is an integral part of our humanity; each language holds a wealth of agricultural, linguistic, and cultural knowledge which can help us take care of the world, and learn to live in it better. Documenting endangered languages is a way to curate this body of knowledge; revitalizing languages can help engage this knowledge in areas where it can be best put to use.

Collections & Knowledge Revitalization
Recovering Voices searches for ways to effectively connect communities with their collections. Studying artifacts (baskets, canoes, pots, etc.) can help to revitalize knowledge systems and languages. Understanding the processes that went into creating objects can help us better understand aspects of a society at a particular moment in time; this can help to revitalize not only a language, but also cultural practices and knowledge systems involved in the making and using of these objects.

[ TOP ]