Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Musical Craftsmanship

By: John Hart, Assistant Curator of Collections
I have to admit, I rarely escape from my office long enough to blog on something new and exciting that I’ve been up to in and around the museum. But that might be a good thing. Since museums are rarely able to exhibit their entire collection at any given time, I thought it would be fun (and hopefully interesting) to pick an object and write about it, and whatever else I happen to learn about it while preparing to blog.

I hope you’ll enjoy the behind-the-scenes view into the collection!

As a violinist for the past 15 or so years, every time I see a musical instrument, I always stop. If I can, I pick it up and look at it, always trying to find the “garage sale” Stradivarius that I dream about. Like that would ever happen though. Working in a museum that has instruments in the collection, from violins to guitars to several pianos, I could stare at them for hours if I could. And since I work in the collections storage facility, in theory, I could. One object in particular has always caught my eye, a melodeon that the museum was fortunate enough to be given in 2007 by Patricia B. Selch, in memory of Eric Selch.

Made by Amos L. Swan of Cherry Valley, NY, this melodeon is nearly identical to the sketch Swan drew for the US Patent office ca. 1850. In fact, there is even a gold decal on the case that reads “Patented May 7, 1850.” Swan made several improvements in the construction and workings of his melodeon and patented it to protect his new design. Also known as a reed organ, one has to pump the pedal in order to make any sound. It works much like an accordion, which most people are more familiar with, where the air flutters across the reed making a musical note as the bellows are pumped. Even some accordions are referred to as melodeons.

Though we have other melodeons and even violins and pianos that are beautifully constructed, this melodeon is definitely one of my favorite instruments in the collection. The ingenuity of Amos Swan to develop and improve this instrument testifies to the same ingenuity that other 19th-century inventors had during the American Industrial Revolution. It is no wonder that The Farmers’ Museum has such a large collection of patent models.

More on that next time!

1 comment:

MaAnna said...

The craftsmanship of these instruments is truly wonderful. Beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing.
I wonder if it still has a nice sound. Ironic to have a sound device turn into "don't touch it" art, isn't it?

Blog Widget by LinkWithin