scordatura

A Visit To the Library of Congress to View Instruments

Recommended Posts

I visited the Library of Congress today to view the bowed string instruments there. Having been there three times before and had a fantastic experience, I realized today how lucky I was in my past visits with another curator (now retired). I had quite a bit of trouble scheduling a visit. It took numerous emails and phone calls. Unlike in years past, there is no playing of the instruments. I can understand that given the value of the items. All I will say is that the curator Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford is hard to get a hold of (she is part-time) and a strange combination of nice and at times rude and unprofessional. After getting quite a bit of runaround I will probably not be going back anytime soon. My advice to anyone trying to visit is be persistent and clarify details like where you are meeting. Perhaps your experience will be different than mine was. Sorry no pics...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’ve found the people at NMAH to be much more welcoming. I went with a group from the shop where I worked at the time and they were happy to pull out an interesting selection of great instruments and bows. They actually encouraged us to play. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

I’ve found the people at NMAH to be much more welcoming. I went with a group from the shop where I worked at the time and they were happy to pull out an interesting selection of great instruments and bows. They actually encouraged us to play. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. 

Wow. Next on my list. Thanks!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My first year at The Chimney's (1996) four of us arranged a visit to the LoC.

We showed up, were led into the instrument room by a very nice (if disinterested) man, shown where everything was, and then left alone. We stood there for a second, not quite knowing what to do. Then we had at it!  For well over an hour we were left by ourselves. I played the Castlebarco cello, we took measurements, we took pictures, we picked up and handled everything, one of my friends played Turkey in the Straw on the Betts. At no point did anyone so much as pop their head in to see what we were doing. I feel like we could have stayed all day and nobody would care. We eventually just wandered out, said thank you, and left. I don't know if that was just the way it was back then or if we lucked out and just had a particularly lax attendant, but it was absolutely amazing. Four dumbasses in their mid 20's screwing around in a room full of some of the most important instruments ever. The woodwinds and brass were also great!

My biggest regret is that I was not even a year into violin making and I honestly had no real idea of what I was looking at. Fortunately I was with someone with a slightly better grasp of these instruments, but I am sure the experience was wasted on me. All the same, I will never forget it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That was my experience as well.  I visited several times in the late 1990's when Bob Sheldon was the curator.  Once he felt confident I was trustworthy, he pretty much left me alone to play and examine the collection.  It may have helped that I am also a professional string player.  When the new curator came, I noticed the same things mentioned.   She seems to have done a  better job of making sure the collection is maintained.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, arglebargle said:

My first year at The Chimney's (1996) four of us arranged a visit to the LoC.

We showed up, were led into the instrument room by a very nice (if disinterested) man, shown where everything was, and then left alone. We stood there for a second, not quite knowing what to do. Then we had at it!  For well over an hour we were left by ourselves. I played the Castlebarco cello, we took measurements, we took pictures, we picked up and handled everything, one of my friends played Turkey in the Straw on the Betts. At no point did anyone so much as pop their head in to see what we were doing. I feel like we could have stayed all day and nobody would care. We eventually just wandered out, said thank you, and left. I don't know if that was just the way it was back then or if we lucked out and just had a particularly lax attendant, but it was absolutely amazing. Four dumbasses in their mid 20's screwing around in a room full of some of the most important instruments ever. The woodwinds and brass were also great!

My biggest regret is that I was not even a year into violin making and I honestly had no real idea of what I was looking at. Fortunately I was with someone with a slightly better grasp of these instruments, but I am sure the experience was wasted on me. All the same, I will never forget it.

Funny you should mention the Chimneys School visit. One of the times I was there, Ed Campbell’s students strolled in. I had to be patient as the downstairs room got very busy. I remember in particular when one of the students took a credit card to the top of the Betts to check the arching. He was delighted to find out that Ed’s flat arching theory was wrong. Apparently they had Been debating the issue. When I got back I looked in my “little red book” and had a chuckle about the flat portion of the arching.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Zen Master said:

That was my experience as well.  I visited several times in the late 1990's when Bob Sheldon was the curator.  Once he felt confident I was trustworthy, he pretty much left me alone to play and examine the collection.  It may have helped that I am also a professional string player.  When the new curator came, I noticed the same things mentioned.   She seems to have done a  better job of making sure the collection is maintained.   

Yes I can understand being more protective with the instruments. However I remember Bob Sheldon saying that these were the citizens of the US’s instruments. Now it has the feel of a “club” where outsiders are not welcome. She talked about the provenance, the great quartets that are invited, the Oberlin crowd, and all of the things she had done to further scientific research.    

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Michael_Molnar said:

The VSA visit to the LOC a couple of years ago was a truly memorable experience. I would love to do it again.

Probably a better setting than just one individual. Besides you are probably more erudite and charming than I am. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing that struck me about the Kreisler GDG was that it was very shiny as if it had been French polished. My old photos and recollection was that it was not nearly that shiny. I have noticed that this goes against the trend of some restorers these days that remove French polish and go for a more matte finish.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, scordatura said:

One thing that struck me about the Kreisler GDG was that it was very shiny as if it had been French polished. My old photos and recollection was that it was not nearly that shiny. I have noticed that this goes against the trend of some restorers these days that remove French polish and go for a more matte finish.

This is a difficult topic, since the shine of a FP has nothing to do with the original aesthetic look. But I don’t know if it makes sense to remove an existing FP layer (if it is really shellac) since it is the best serviceable protective layer one could imagine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.