Documenting an endangered Cambodian musical tradition: Unexpected findings on the provenance of the British Museum’s “Asset 1380796001”

Grant, Catherine (2022) Documenting an endangered Cambodian musical tradition: Unexpected findings on the provenance of the British Museum’s “Asset 1380796001”. The International Journal of Intangible Heritage, 17. pp. 124-133. ISSN 1975-3586

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The Cambodian Jew’s harp angkuoch can be found both among the majority Khmer people and some ethnic minorities, across several Cambodian provinces. Before the 1970s, playing and enjoying angkuoch was a popular local pastime in village communities. However, various social and cultural shifts in Cambodia over the last half-century, including the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975–1979), mean that angkuoch is now highly endangered both as an instrument and as a performance practice. In 2020, the author led an international project team to document the process of angkuoch-making in two rural village communities in Siem Reap province. Funded by the Endangered Material Knowledge Programme of the British Museum, the project was carried out in collaboration with partner organisation Cambodian Living Arts and local artists and instrument-makers. This article reports on one specific aspect of the fieldwork: the unexpected and incidental discovery of the likely provenance of ‘Asset 1380796001’ in the British Museum collection, an angkuoch of a previously unknown maker, donated to the museum in 1966. The project team is now working with the British Museum to include in its catalogue this new information about the instrument. This article describes and reflects on these circumstances and outcomes, not only in as much as they advance historical knowledge about angkuoch and angkuochmaking, but also more broadly in terms of their relevance to fieldwork documentation approaches, the ethics of collaborative ethnography, and the intersections between intangible cultural heritage (music) and material knowledge (musical instruments) in the context of a museum project.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Cambodia, documentation, endangered ICH, endangerment, fieldwork, material culture, museums, music, musical instruments, Southeast Asia
Subjects: B Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) > 04 Performing arts
B Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) > 10 Safeguarding of ICH
Depositing User: Mr Jose García Vicente
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2022 21:12
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2022 21:12

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