In the Beginning

Florence Dibell Bartlett
Florence Dibell Bartlett

Welcome to the blog of the Museum of International Folk Art.

We begin by revisiting our beginnings. Our Strategic Planning Committee did so in 2015, as we reviewed key missions and values statements and considered how to best state our beliefs for the present day. As we drafted our new Mission Statement:

The Museum of International Folk Art fosters understanding of the traditional arts to illuminate human creativity and shape a humane world.

And worked together to state the core principles we have always known we share:

  • Folk art has the power to change lives and change the world.
  • Folk artists create and share their beliefs, visions, and cultural values.
  • People understand themselves and each other better through seeing, creating, and interacting with folk arts.
  • The museum is a dynamic, multidimensional learning environment that can be an integral part of community life.
  • The museum’s collection is an important connection between past, present, and future folk art and related traditions.
  • We are accountable for professional, ethical behavior in all aspects of our operations.

We came back again and again to the vision of our founder, Florence Dibell Bartlett, who in the aftermath of World War II was able to see that "The art of the craftsman is a bond between the peoples of the world” and that this promised a way forward to a more peaceful world.

All of us had read the words before; most of us had read about Miss Bartlett. None of us had known her; none had ever heard her voice.

And this is when we discovered that Florence Dibell Bartlett participated in Edward R Murrow’s original series This I Believe. A recording and a transcript of her essay, originally broadcast about 60 years ago, are available here

It is a rare chance to hear Miss Bartlett’s voice, to hear her say

“I believe it was the ground of the capacity to appreciate something in one another and to express that vital core of love which lies within the hearts of men and helps to bind them together.”

“Today, I believe that a deep-rooted conviction is making itself felt throughout the universe, that there can be a closer bond of mutual appreciation between all peoples. It is a conviction founded on the rock of an increased spiritual discernment that an interdependence of nations and a world encircling unity is possible of realization, as each individual upholds this idea and endeavors to demonstrate it in his own life.”

It is lovely to know that, despite all the changes at the Museum and in the world, there is such a thread of continuity from Miss Bartlett’s vision to what we continue to consider, to discuss, and to put into action.