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Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation Program

Date Released: Mon, 27 March 2017 08:37 +0200

Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation Program

“The preservation of musical instruments at the International Library of African Music,” Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa



Grant: SSF20014GR362

Project:  This project enabled Rhodes University’s International Library of African Music (ILAM) to conserve their collection of over 350 rare and old African musical instruments. The support was provided to prevent further deterioration from insect infestations, exposure to ultraviolet light, and fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Through an Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) grant of $58,847.00, ILAM installed specially-designed climate controlled cabinets and display cases, UV protection on all windows, safe lighting, and a humidifier and de-humidifier. In addition, they also fumigated, created an electronic database with photos and sound tracks for each item in the collection to avoid unnecessary handling, and contributed to skills development among their staff to ensure continuity in the care of the collection.

Dates: This project took place between September 15, 2014 and September 15, 2016 (as amended).


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Accomplishments in detail:

  • In consultation with expert conservator June Hosford, climate-controlled cabinets, display cases, drawers, wall mounts, and platforms were custom-designed, built, and installed by the African Musical Instruments (AMI) factory in Grahamstown.
  • Old solar film was replaced with new UV protective film on all windows.
  • A new skylight dome with improved UV protection was installed.
  • Old fluorescent tube lighting was replaced by new lighting with low UV emissions.
  • A humidifier and de-humidifier were installed.
  • The instruments were fumigated against insects.
  • Instruments needing repair were repaired by experienced restoration technician, retired ILAM Director and Emeritus Professor Andrew Tracey, son of ILAM founder Hugh Tracey.
  • Archival labels were printed and affixed to each instrument.
  • Perspex mounts and labels were installed for each display unit.
  • The instrument collection database was enhanced with additional meta-data, photos and sound clips for each item, and made accessible on wall mounted tablets next to each display unit, along with headsets.
  • ILAM assistants learned conservation techniques and principles, further ensuring the sustainability of the collection.

Preview ceremonyambas

On July 4, 2015, Ambassador Patrick Gaspard attended a ceremony for invited guests at ILAM, to mark the near completion of the AFCP project. The ceremony took place during the annual National Arts Festival, which brings cultural boffins to Grahamstown from across the country and other parts of the globe every year. Ambassador Gaspard gave remarks about the AFCP program, and support for ILAM’s work. The audience included Emeritus Professor and former ILAM Director Andrew Tracey, Rhodes University Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr. Peter Clayton, Dean of Humanities, Prof Tom Martin, and Ismail Mohamed, Director of the National Arts Festival. Complementing the preview ceremony, guests attended a special concert “Celebrating African Music” in honour of the 60th anniversary of ILAM, and the US Embassy and AFCP grant.

More images 

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