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American Folklife Center Collections: Cambodia

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting Cambodian expressive culture in Cambodia and the United States in the collections of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.


John Lueders-Booth, photographer. Wedding of Pen Hing and Sopheap Kuth, at residence of Chhoun Chen, Lowell, Massachusetts. September 26, 1987. Lowell Folklife Project Collection. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

American Folklife Center collections of Cambodians and Cambodian Americans document the diversity of their expressive culture. Among its unique collections are the Laura Boulton Collection recordings made between 1949 and 1961; the Karl Signell collection; documentation of an ethnic school and events in the associated community near Houston, Texas as part of the Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America Project conducted by the American Folklife Center in the 1980s; and, documentation of Cambodian customs and music in Lowell, Massachusetts made as part of the Lowell Folklife Project (1987-1988).

Lowell Folklife Project Collection

The Lowell Folklife Project was conducted in 1987-1988 as a cooperative project of the American Folklife Center and the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, with support from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, to document contemporary ethnic neighborhoods, occupations, and community life related to the history of industrialization in Lowell, Massachusetts. This year-long study yielded an ethnographic collection consisting of 196 hours of sound recordings covering a wide range of subjects and activities, including oral history interviews, religious services and festivals (Catholic and Greek Orthodox holy week and Easter services and religious processions; a Cambodian Buddhist wedding ceremony; Cambodian and Laotian New Year's celebrations; Puerto Rican festivals), musical events, parades, ethnic restaurants, and neighborhood tours. An additional 23 hours of sound recordings of musical events and oral history interviews were copied from originals lent by Lowell residents.

Additional Collections of Interest

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

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Chum Ngek was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004. He is both an artist and a teacher known for his performing ability on the roneat, a 21-keyed xylophone. Born in Battambang Province, Chum came to this country in the early 1980s with a wave of Cambodian refugees and has served as a musical and educational leader of his community ever since. At the age of ten, he began learning the repertoire of the major Khmer musical genres, spanning classical and folk traditions. In addition, he learned the music of the kong (gongs), khimm (hammered dulcimer), sampho (two-faced drum) and tror (bowed fiddle). Soon his repertoire was so vast that many people were asking him to teach, and at age 18 he was recognized as a Krou (master teacher). (Event date: September 23, 2020)

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