Final Abstract for URS Program
How should a collection of West African musical instruments - currently in the possession of an eliminated Anthropology department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) - be properly conserved, repaired if needed, and should they be displayed, stored, or donated to another home? The collection, located in the entry foyer of 501 Clark Hall on the UMSL campus, consists of eleven West African drums, three stringed instruments, and one lamellophone. Our team seeks to answer this question to preserve the musical culture of the peoples associated with these instruments. It is important to protect these instruments from degradation or misuse -- In the United States, where a large proportion of the population is descended from West Africans, they are part of the national heritage and have the opportunity to serve as powerful educational tools. The research methodologies will include online and library research to determine the cultural background of the instruments, their relative value, rarity, and the cost of repairs and transport; policy research into relevant UMSL policies and best practices in the relevant areas of preservation; semi-structured interviews of the items’ donor and of area experts; photography of the instruments and visual research to assist identification; and analysis of the aesthetics, condition, and playability of each instrument. This research will result in a catalogue of the instruments, and will allow our team to make an informed recommendation to the University as to where and how the items should be stored, maintained, and/or best put to use.