Assemblages of Historical Sound Recordings: Digitizing, Researching and Repatriating a Collection of Songs and Dance Chants from the Pacific State of Kiribati

Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Project number: 428888038
Duration: Jan. 2020 – Dec. 2022

Project management: Dr. Wolfgang Kempf
Ethnomusicology: Prof. Dr. Mary Lawson Burke (USA)
Project consultation: Prof. Dr. Elfriede Hermann

The purpose of this project is to explore a largely unresearched collection of more than 200 sound recordings which Dr. Gerd and Sigrid Koch put together in the Southern Gilbert archipelago (today Kiribati) between 1963 and 1964. The general objectives regarding this collection of recordings are a) preserving by digitizing, b) examining through research and collaboration with the source communities, and c) making accessible through publication and repatriation. The project combines theoretical and methodological perspectives from studies on the repatriation of digitized sound recordings, on the one hand, and recent approaches to the conceptualization of ethnographic collections and museums as assemblages, on the other. The assemblage perspective serves as a means to understand what influence the distributed agency of researchers and indigenous actors had on the formation of the collection. Indigenous assemblages and interpretations of the sound recordings from collaborative research with the source communities help to generate in-depth knowledge about the historical and sociocultural significance of the songs and dance chants prior to final publication and official repatriation.