Souvenir Instruments--Travel, Identity, and Memory
A musical instrument, like any object of material culture, can signify cultural and social constructs beyond that of its primary use (music making). Many national and ethnic constructs, for example, have associated with them one or a few musical instruments. Some obvious illustrations of this are the highland bagpipe (Scottish identity), the Celtic diatonic harp (used for centuries prior to 1916 on the Irish flag), the didjeridu (Australian aboriginal identity), and the ukulele (Hawaiian identity). Almost anywhere in the world one travels local crafts industries have capitalized on the associative potentials of musical instruments, making inexpensive (and often non-functional, in a musical sense) instruments readily available to tourists for purchase. These objects are nonetheless functional in one important way--for an individual, an object purchased while traveling can later trigger memories of their total experience in any given visited locale.
An ancillary phenomenon to the global evolution of the souvenir instrument marketplace is the availability of its products to a clientele who can procure them close to home. Organizations, situated in the industrialized world, that promote the ideology of providing Third World craftspeople with sales outlets in the First World import souvenir instruments for sale in their world crafts stores or at museum gift shops. With the advent of the internet, souvenir instruments can now be purchased from the comfort of one’s own home (explore the instruments available on one ‘free trade’ organization’s website, Ten Thousand Villages). Individuals who purchase instruments through these outlets must find different meanings to attach to these objects of material culture than the tourist buying them at the point of origin, but chances are they are at some level associating these objects with an identity other than their own.
The first fifty-one images displayed on this page are of instruments gifted in 1999 to Grinnell College by Jeanette Tisdale, who taught general music in the Grinnell public school system for decades. She spent many summers traveling the world, purchasing instruments along the way that not only interested her but that she could use in her teaching. While a few of the instruments in the Tisdale collection are fully functional and have dedicated entries in the database, the majority of them were made for and sold to tourists. There is probably no better a resource to illustrate the topic of souvenir instruments than the Tisdale Collection--it was assembled over years of travel by an individual who encountered wherever she went in the world musical instruments that signified the local and that were available for purchase. Following the Tisdale Collection are eleven further examples of souvenir instruments gifted by other individuals to the Grinnell College Music Instrument Collection.
Baumann, Max Peter. 2000. “The Local and the Global: Traditional Musical Instruments and Modernization,” the world of music 42/3: 121-144.
Graburn, Nelson H. H. 1976. Ethnic and Tourist Arts: Cultural Expressions from the Fourth World. Berkeley: University of California Press.
“List of National Instruments.” Wikipedia article, accessed February 21, 2015: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_instruments_%28music%29
“Gifts for the Musician,” Ten Thousand Villages® (Fair Trade Dealers since 1946), accessed October 21 2019: https://www.tenthousandvillages.com/the-musicians
(by Roger Vetter)
Some Further Souvenir Instruments in the Collection