Rebecca Lindsey is a member of the Visiting Committee of the Departments of Musical Instruments and Islamic Art.
Posted: Monday, July 27, 2015
Beginning in the early 1940s, the Met became home to a remarkable series of free concerts performed on many of the finest instruments in the Museum's collection. The concerts came about thanks to the efforts of the first curator of the Department of Musical Instruments, Emanuel Winternitz, who believed that the instrument collection needed to be heard as well as seen in order to be fully appreciated. While the use of musical instruments has always been an important part of understanding and interpreting them as art objects at the Metropolitan Museum, the philosophy of the time was much more liberal than today's conservation-minded approach. The concerts began in early 1943 and continued for more than a decade until the creation of a Department of Auditorium Events (later Concerts and Lectures), which gradually replaced the Winternitz-era scholarly programming with more mainstream attractions for which it could charge admission.
Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2015
In 1949 the Department of Musical Instruments and Concerts (as it was initially known) became the Museum's thirteenth curatorial department. The person responsible for this event, Dr. Emanuel Winternitz, was named curator. Winternitz was hired in 1941 and in the nick of time, as the Museum was then deeply invested in a plan to deaccession all but four of the more than four thousand instruments in its collection.
Posted: Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Today the Department of Musical Instruments celebrates its storied history with the launch of A Harmonious Ensemble: Musical Instruments at the Metropolitan Museum, 1884–2014—a comprehensive account of the people, performances, and instruments that have made the department what it is today. This digital publication includes audio and video material dating back to the 1940s, many images of the instruments and the people who have shaped the collection, and original documents never before seen by the public. It is intended as a resource for those interested in the department and its activities, and will also be available, without media files, in a searchable, printable format at a later date.
Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015
It is well known that the Department of Musical Instruments benefitted in its early years from the work of one unusual nineteenth-century woman, Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown, who remains the largest donor in the department's history. Less well known, however, are the contributions of another important American woman collector of the time, Brown's near-contemporary, Sarah Sagehorn Frishmuth.
Posted: Monday, August 25, 2014
Among the more distinguished benefactors of the Museum's collection of musical instruments was Raja Sir Sourindro Mohun Tagore (1840–1914), a leading figure in the Bengal Renaissance of the late nineteenth century, as well as an educator, patron of music, and musicologist. Tagore was born in 1840 in Calcutta, then the capital of British India, to a Brahmin family—wealthy merchants with lands formerly owned by ruling aristocrats, who were fluent in English and conversant with Western European knowledge. The British often conferred the aristocratic title of Raja on prominent citizens; Tagore's brother inherited the senior title Maharaja, and, in 1880, Tagore himself was titled Raja, though his family had no political authority.
Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Frances Morris (1866–1955) was not only the first woman to work as a professional at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, but she was also, effectively, the first curator of the Museum's collection of musical instruments. The daughter of a minister and raised in New York, little is known of her early life and education, and there is no evidence that she had any professional degrees or musical training.
Posted: Tuesday, April 22, 2014
David Mannes (1866–1969) was a violinist, famed conductor, and one of the most important music educators in the United States, best known for the Manhattan music school he founded in 1916 which today is Mannes College The New School of Music. Though never a Museum employee, Mannes began the distinguished history of musical performances at the Met. He conducted at the Museum for more than forty years, and for thirty years led regular free concerts that The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin described in 1949 as having "America's largest indoor audiences." Particularly during the 1930s, when the Museum had no curator knowledgeable about instruments, Mannes also advised on the acquisition of instruments and their care.
Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
This year the Museum officially celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments. In 1889 Mrs. John Crosby Brown, the largest donor in the Department's history, gave the first 278 of what would ultimately be more than 3,000 instruments. She was not the founder of the Museum's instrument collection, however—that honor belongs to Joseph W. Drexel (1830–1888). This post is dedicated to Drexel, and is the first in an occasional series that will highlight the history of the collection during this anniversary year.