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A Stradivari violin. Wikimedia

November 04, 2016: One of the marvels in the world, the Capitol Hill in Washington DC, houses the largest library in the United States- the Library of Congress. The library was built by an act of Congress on the year 1800.

But the largest library of the US does not only have a huge collection of millions of books and varieties of maps but it also possesses an amazing collection of musical instruments. The rarest and the most unique collection of the musical instruments include the ‘Cremonese collection’, the ‘Wilkins collection’ and the ‘Miller collection’ etcetera.


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The collection showcases some antique violins. These include the excellent creations by Antonio Stradivari. There are the violins- the Ward, the Betts and the Castelbarco, the Cassavetti viola and the Castelbarco cello, present in the collection. The Stradivari violins are known around the globe for their famous musical quality. According to VOA, Steve Miller, of the famed show ‘Did You Know’ reports that the Stradivari collection includes one that is a fine craftsmanship of 53 specialist craftsmen who reportedly signed their names inside. He also reports that this very piece is not displayed to the public. There is another one which has been on loan to the collection of the library since the year 1967.


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As per reports from VOA, Miller’s confirmation, and the collection catalogue of the library, the collection owns a long stringed instrument and is a vintage possession among the musical instruments. Apart from the long-stringed instrument, the collection has an exquisite and beautifully carved hand-drum presented to the library by the king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, on the year 1960; as a token of sincere respect.

The collection of the musical instruments remains incomplete without the mention of the flutes. The library of Congress owns the world’s largest flute collection, as reported by Steve Miller. The most prized possession of the library- the flutes are not displayed to the public. They are stored in drawers, hidden from the regular visitors and each item is perfectly catalogued in the journal of Dr. Dayton C Miller, who donated about 2000 flutes and other wind instruments to the library on 1941. It is referred as the popular ‘Miller Collection’.

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As per VOA’s reports, the curator of the musical instruments collections of the library, Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford, stated that Dr. Miller, who combined music with his talents and science, and created this collection, was one of the best collectors she had witnessed.

Steve Miller further says that one of the flutes from the collection was owned by a king and has an amazing feature that enables the player to switch its middle sections to change the pitch. Another, is the one that was played during the first ever performance of John Philip Sousa’s ‘Stars and Stripes forever’.

Apparently, considering one of the world’s most incredible collections of the vintage musical instruments, the Library of Congress has so much more to it than just books or maps. The collection is surely a rare one and adds to the charm of the largest library in the US.

by Antara Kumar. Twitter: @ElaanaC


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