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Nothing lasts forever. Every organization has a lifespan, and at some point every organization’s lifespan reaches its end. Nevertheless, even extinct organizations can achieve useful afterlives and continue to serve as resources, so long as records of their work are maintained in analog or digital archival collections, and so long as the communities they served are still coherent and culturally vibrant. This essay tells the story of an extinct US public folklore non-profit organization, The Greater Cleveland Ethnographic Museum (GCEM), a small but important organization that was active for just six years—from 1975 to 1981—in the multiethnic midwestern US city of Cleveland, Ohio. During its brief life, the CGEM was typical of US public folklore organizations of the period: small and underfunded, but with an extremely dedicated staff, many strong partnerships with ethnic communities and their leaders throughout the city, and supported by what was at the time a significant investment by government in folklore and traditional culture. Even though the GCEM has been gone for almost 40 years, the archival documentary records of its activities have been preserved through the continued dedication of its leaders and staff and the support of other cultural and educational organizations in the Cleveland area, and are still available as a community and a scholarly resource.
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