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Keys, Hammers, & Pipes

Bringing an organized piano back to life

October 10, 2014

Dispatches from the Archives, Part 2: We Are Family

Tucker House

Guest posting by Jenna Simpson

The Tucker house in Williamsburg, first home of the organized piano.

I began trying to solve the mystery of the organ’s early years by looking at the families involved: the Tuckers of Williamsburg, the Carters of Shirley and the Walkers of Castle Hill, all of whom appear to have owned …

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September 22, 2014

Dispatches from the Archives, Part 1: Where have you been all your life?

Castle Hill

Guest posting by Jenna Simpson

Provenance relates to the life history of a piece –who’s owned it, where it’s been, what it’s seen in its lifetime.

Knowing where and how an object was used allows us to appreciate it not only for its own aesthetic and historical value; it helps us to put the piece into a …

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August 7, 2014

Pipes are Straightened


By John Watson

Before treatment, the pipes were bent, torn, and twisted.

The badly twisted, torn and mangled pipes are among the more daunting problems to be solved in the treatment of the “Tucker” organized upright grand piano. A conventional approach to restoration would probably involve replacing them with new ones. Some restorers have even melted …

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July 15, 2014

The Pipe Treatment Begins

Lou Dolive inventories the pipes

By John Watson

Lou Dolive inventories the pipes

The first step: Inventory the pipes and determine what is missing. For this, we turned to veteran organ-pipe maker Louis Dolive.

Lou unfolded the pipes enough to line them up and take stock. Sixty-five metal pipes were missing entirely. At first, it appeared touch-and-go whether we would be …

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June 22, 2014

A Conservation Pipeline

Mangled pipes before conservation

By John Watson

Restorative conservation of the Tucker instrument will begin with one of our more daunting challenges: to straighten the severely damaged metal pipes. While the wood pipes survived in relatively good condition, the metal ones were hardly recognizable as organ pipes. All were crushed and folded so even the longest pipe could fit in a …

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June 2, 2014

Another Organized Piano?

By John Watson

The Rolfe-Sellers organized square piano. The organ occupies the space below the piano and is surrounded by panels of cloth and gilded pipes.

Our good friend and colleague in South Carolina, Tom Strange, recently sent an email with a startling offer.

An organized square piano had turned up in an …

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