Touchstones of Identity: Safeguarding Our Cultural DNA

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600 I St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
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After Five Lectures & Discussions Shopping/Book Signing
What makes up someone's culture? In times of disaster and crisis, what is worth saving? The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Latino invites you to join us at Sixth & I for an evening featuring Cuban-born American writer, curator and art conservator, Rosa Lowinger, Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large, Dr. Richard Kurin, and Cuban-American anthropologist and writer, Ruth Behar for a discussion on cultural preservation through conservation. This program explores the intersectionality of ethnicity, faith, conservation, and heritage.  

Books will be for sale on site with book signing to follow.

This program is a part of the NMAL Public Program Series, From the Pages of History: Why Does Latino History Matter?

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This is a Smithsonian program and unaffiliated with Sixth & I.

About the Speakers:

Rosa Lowinger
Rosa Lowinger is a Cuban-born writer and materials conservator, with a specialty in architectural materials and sculpture. The founder of RLA Conservation, LLC (, a practice with offices in Los Angeles and Miami, Rosa is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, the Association for Preservation Technology, and American Academy in Rome, where she conducted research on the history of vandalism to art and public space. Rosa writers short stories, essays, and literary non-fiction. Her books include: Tropicana Nights: The Life and Times of the Legendary Cuban Nightclub (Harcourt: 2006) Promising Paradise: Cuban Allure, American Seduction (FIU: 2026), and the recently published Dwell Time: A Memoir of Art, Exile, and Repair (Row House: 2023). During her work as consultant to the Smithsonian’s Haiti Cultural Recovery Project, Rosa helped rescue the murals from St. Trinity Episcopal Cathedral’s collapsed walls.

Dr. Richard Kurin
Richard Kurin is the Smithsonian’s Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large, having previously served for more than a decade as Under Secretary overseeing all the Smithsonian’s national museums, scientific research centers and educational programs. Prior to that, he directed the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage for two decades. Kurin helped formulate the 2003 UNESCO Convention on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage now ratified by 180 nations. He also founded the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and has worked to save cultural heritage endangered by natural disasters and human conflict in the U.S. and around the world. He has worked closely with U.S. government agencies and with local partners in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and currently Ukraine to safeguard heritage, identify looted art, and monitor cultural war crimes. Kurin has served as Smithsonian liaison to the White House Historical Association, the U.S. President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities, the U.S. Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee, and the Federal Interagency Panel for World Heritage. An anthropologist with a PhD from the University of Chicago, Kurin has authored seven books including the best-selling The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Arsht-Rockefeller Resilience Center.

Ruth Behar
Ruth Behar is an anthropologist and creative writer who is acclaimed for the compassion she brings to her quest to understand the depth of the human experience. She was born in Havana and has dedicated her scholarship to the Spanish-speaking world, carrying out research in Spain, Mexico, and Cuba that has yielded pioneering writing across disciplines and genres. She is the author of several books about her travels, including The Vulnerable Observer, An Island Called Home, and Traveling Heavy, as well as a bilingual volume of poetry, Everything I Kept/Todo lo que guardé, and an award-winning documentary, Adio Kerida, about the Sephardic Jews of Cuba. As a writer of fiction for young people, she has won acclaim for her middle grade novels, Lucky Broken Girl and Letters from Cuba, and her picture books, Tía Fortuna’s New Home, and Pepita Meets Bebita, co-authored with her son, Gabriel Frye-Behar. Her newest middle-grade novel, Across So Many Seas, a Sephardic story spanning five hundred years, has been described as “a moving historic tale that treats every word used as if it is a fleeting and impossibly beautiful note in a song that can never be forgotten.” The first Latina to be named a MacArthur “genius,” Behar has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Distinguished Alumna Award from Wesleyan University, and the Carnegie Corporation’s Great Immigrant Award. She is the James W. Fernandez Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

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