Finding stuff in the attic

August 18, 2009

One of my great joys as a boy was visiting my grandparents in Kentucky and looking through all the amazing stuff they had in their attic. The smells, the colors, things from very long ago resonate still in my memory.

As Chair of the UCLA music department, I have, over the past few years, been able to continue this little fantasy. Last week, a largish room was cleared out. All along the sides are little closets, some locked, some not, filled with old instruments from the last 300 years. We had no idea where they came from, who gave them to us or whether they are worth anything. I have two colleagues whom I know can identify some of them, but the others are a mystery. We speculated that some of these instruments had been donated by someone long ago, and just put in the room. We had a museum scientist on staff until the early 1990s, but he was laid off around that time. Amazing looking instruments, including a set of historic autoharps.

Fortunately, I have a staff member who has a similar love of finding old treasures like this. She will help me catalog them, research where they came from, and figure out what we should do with them.

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