News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, March 9, 2017
Deer Isle family donates tam-tam to Blue Hill Public Library

The Penfold family of Deer Isle

The Penfold family of Deer Isle—Richard, Mary and their sons, Brendan, left, and Benjamin—with the tam-tam they donated to the Blue Hill Public Library.

Photo courtesy of Blue Hill Public Library

The Blue Hill Public Library has received a gift of a Vanuatuan drum—a tam-tam, also known as a “slit-gong,” now on permanent display in the Library’s Blue Hill Room. Among the largest free-standing instruments in the world, the tam-tam is a 9-foot carved log that looks a bit like a totem pole, according to a news release from the library.

The tam-tam was donated by Richard Penfold of Deer Isle, who purchased it from Chief Tofor on the island of Vanuatu when he was volunteering there some years ago. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which houses a tam-tam in its collection, the instruments are carved from the trunks of breadfruit trees and are struck with club-like sticks to produce “deep, sonorous tones.” Gong orchestras play at major social and ceremonial occasions such as initiations, dances, and funerals. Tam-tams were also used to communicate between villages.

“Blue Hill Public Library, which has a mission of opening ‘doors to information, community, culture, and the world,’ has a longstanding tradition of bringing the world to Blue Hill through artifacts collected and gleaned from many benefactors, chiefly Adelaide Pearson and Roland Howard,” library director Rich Boulet said in the release. “The library has textiles from Guatemala, pottery from American Indians in the Southwest, an Indonesian bust, sheet music from the Middle Ages, ancient maps and surveys, and now Blue Hill’s own tam-tam.”

For more information contact the library at 374-5515.