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Flute Blowout

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While perusing The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Musical Instrument Curator Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford happened upon a review of Canadian photographer Todd McLellan’s new book Things Come Apart and she stopped in her tracks. There she saw a photograph of a bicycle’s parts laid out neatly, grouped with like pieces (an example from his book of 50 items he took apart and photographed). The reason this image struck a chord with Carol Lynn? A similar concept found in the Music Division’s Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection:

Gold flute taken apart in stages for cleaning. Photograph from Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (photo taken between 1903 and 1917).

Dayton C. Miller was an American scientist who took a special interest in the flute, including its history and construction. Just before his death, Miller donated his collection of flutes, flute literature, correspondence, and iconography to the Library of Congress. The above photograph from the collection shows a gold flute that Miller built himself and then took apart to clean. The collection also contains a log that Miller kept while he constructed the gold flute and, according to his notes in that log, he started building the flute in 1901. The photograph, however, is not labeled with an exact date; it could be dated from anywhere in the 1903-1917 time range. It’s great fun to point out a collection item that mirrors McLellan’s modern artistic study, and striking to see this kind of documentation of human interest in how things work.

The Miller Collection in the Music Division holds nearly 1700 flutes, iconography and statues, correspondence, photographs, scores, and more. Learn more about the collection by exploring the Dayton C. Miller online collection and the collection’s finding aid.

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