Listening to the Past: re-animating music collections in ACT house museums

Dr Jennifer Gall

Listening to the Past: re-animating music collections in ACT house museums.

In 2014 I was awarded funding from the ACT Heritage Grants Program to recreate, play and record music that would have animated Canberra’s historic house museums (Calthorpes’ House, Lanyon and Mugga Mugga) using sheet music, oral history recordings and instruments belonging to each home. Examples (played on house instruments) illustrate the cultural tastes of the different classes and personalities of people who inhabited each property.

In collaboration with ACT Museums and Historic Places, and Canberra piano technician Christopher Leslie, the piano at Mugga Mugga (an L.P.Renardi of Hamburg) and the piano at Lanyon (an English 1840s upright cottage Broadwood) will be restored to a condition that renders the instruments playable while retaining the audible evidence of the age of these instruments. The violin at Mugga Mugga was restored for an earlier event in 2013 to recreate the music that the original owner, Patrick Curley performed.

This paper will discuss the research process: responding to the wish of a deceased piano owner recorded in an oral history interview; gaining approval from ACT Museums and Galleries to work on the heritage instruments; establishing the principles to guide restoration of the pianos to a particular standard and examining the sheet music collections of the historic houses to select repertoire and documentation to facilitate performances.

Dr Jennifer Gall, Visiting Fellow, ANU School of Music and Assistant Curator, Documents and Artefacts, National Film and Sound Archive.

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