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Half-length color portrait of Carol Lynn Ward Bamford. She is holding a flute gently in both Hans, smiling, wearing a deep blue dress. She has short white hair. The light-blue wall behind her is decorated with lines and images, including that of.a guitar.
Carol Lynn Ward Bamford. Photo: Shawn Miller.

My Job: Carol Lynn Ward Bamford and the Flute Vault

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Carol Lynn Ward Bamford curates collections of musical instruments.

Describe your work at the Library.

I take care of the musical instruments collections in the Music Division. The Library has over 2,000 instruments — mostly woodwinds and bowed stringed instruments — that are available for study, performance and exhibition.

My days are spent managing their care; their use in public performances, displays and exhibitions; and visitor requests to see, examine or copy them. The Dayton C. Miller flute collection comprises not just the flutes themselves but also an entire reference collection of related books, music scores, patents, iconography, statues, photographs and more. So, I often work with different divisions at the Library and many types of visitors!

How did you prepare for your background?

I went through graduate school in music and performance on the flute. I taught flute, freelanced, played with an orchestra and worked in a flute manufactory. One day, literally, I just felt I had accomplished all I wanted to do on the flute. After considering further studies in musicology, I decided instead to be a librarian.

Off I went to library school at Simmons University. Next door was the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I started work there in the musical instruments department, and that was that! I knew I was in the right place. At the same time, I took a publishing class at Simmons. For my final project, I created a catalog of the Miller flute collection and was told to show it to the Library’s Music Division. So, I did!

I applied for a temporary job here at the Library and got hired for 120 days. That was good enough for me. I eventually got a permanent job here and turned that final school project into the Library’s Dayton C. Miller website.

I feel that working here with researchers, visitors, the public and our staff and fielding all their questions that I am at work on a Ph.D. in “how to answer”!

What have been your most memorable experiences at the Library?

Before the visit of singer-songwriter Lizzo to the Library’s flute collection: getting my first thank you note. It was from a young girl, filled with her words and drawings of flutes. I have it in my office, where I see it every day. I was so grateful she sent it because that made me realize we can have an impact, no matter what the age of the visitor.

Also before Lizzo: the power of collaborating with other divisions and institutions. I worked as part of a team with the Library’s Preservation Research and Testing Division, Catholic University and George Washington University studying our glass flutes via a three-year major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Then there was the visit to the Library by Lizzo and the concert at Capital One Arena the next day at which she played our Madison flute onstage. While that event was one of the hardest days of my Library life, it also was one of the best. It had great impact on the Library and the flute in general.

And everyday memories: the power of donors and their generosity.

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Comments (3)

  1. Thank-you so much for sharing your story. I am always so amazed and grateful for the talented people at the Library of Congress!

  2. You rock, Carol Lynn! Wish we could still work together.

  3. I have always admired your professionalism. It was lovely to hear of your journey that brought you to the Library. What a gift you are to the music division.

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