A Selected Bibliography on Conservation, Restoration, and Documentation Relating to the Pipe Organ

By Friesen, Michael D. | The American Organist, August 2009 | Go to article overview
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A Selected Bibliography on Conservation, Restoration, and Documentation Relating to the Pipe Organ


Friesen, Michael D., The American Organist


Introduction

A number of organizations around the world devoted to or interested in the history of the pipe organ have made varying attempts at promulgating principles for the conservation and restoration of organs since the 1950s. This was the decade that saw the concerted rise of many groups focusing on historical preservation in reaction to the forces of modernism after World War II that was leading to the rapid and often large-scale destruction of buildings and things of historic value, which many felt was a trend that would threaten to irrevocably sweep away even more cultural heritage unless it was curtailed. In most respects, this general preservation movement has succeeded in altering, if not stopping, destructive mentalities through advocacy, research, documentation, publication, legal protections, and many other techniques for all manner of buildings, structures, works of art, musical instruments, cultural sites, landscapes, and the like.

Interest in and respect for saving historic pipe organs was both a party to and a beneficiary of the larger historic preservation movement. To be an advocate for old organs required all of the same types of work and attention as other cultural groups and institutions had to muster for their causes. Promotion, study, organizational efforts, fund-raising, and increased professionalization of methods (ranging from quality of research to conservation) were all necessary endeavors taken up and improved upon over time.

One of the tasks identified early on was the formulation of definitions of and philosophies about historic organs. Both basic and extended questions had to be asked. What was a historic organ? What types of organs should be given the most attention? How should they be preserved? What constitutes restoration? What measures should be taken to acquire, study, and publish information about organs and organbuilders? These and many other related questions occupied much thought, debate, and effort over the years, and they remain as points of discussion as the world of historic preservation continues to evolve. To make a simple point - that which was "new" in the 1950s, when the focus turned to the "old," could now very well be deemed historic. Indeed, some organs that were built in the 1950s have already been the subject of restorations, and numerous instruments that were restored in that decade or later are now being "rerestored" as standards and philosophies have changed. Thus another generation of thinking and review, building upon the results of the first half-century of the preservation movement, is inevitable.

Many articles, position statements, conference papers, and now, books, have been published about myriad aspects of preservation of historic organs in the intervening time. They are but a small percentage of the entire conservation literature, which is vast, but they display a wide range of topics equal to the variety and level of detail of most other conservation issues. The purpose of this bibliography is to provide a comprehensive list of general literature on organ preservation, restoration, and documentation as a step towards facilitating the spread and exchange of knowledge about the topic, as well as the possibility of creating more specialized bibliographies or other publications that would be useful to organists, organbuilders, organ historians, curators, and other parties interested in the instrument. Indeed, even the writing of a history of the organ preservation "movement" (to use a term that really encompasses multiple threads of advocacy) would be appropriate. No bibliography can be exhaustive, however, and thus there may be inadvertent omissions of valuable literature at this stage that can be rectified in later versions.

In general, as an analysis of this bibliography shows, the literature began with basic statements of principles about preservation and restoration of organs, which were then refined and enlarged upon over time.

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