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The Treasure Room

On the top floor of the Library is a museum which Dickinson named "The Treasure Room." This area of the library is significant not only for the special collections housed here but also, as Carol June Bradley has noted, because the Vassar Music Library Treasure Room was probably the first museum within a music library in the United States. [5] Here are located two important collections which Dickinson assembled to "bring into the range of experience of the student," [6] the Department of Music's Historical Musical Instrument Collection and the Music Library special collections.

A large percentage of the historical instrument collection was a gift in the late 1930's from the family of collector Reverend James Henry Darlington, Bishop of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In an address entitled, "The Living Library," Dickinson lists what he believed to be the essential characteristics of the liberal arts music library. [7] In this address Dickinson advocates at least the purchase of a harpsichord and clavichord "when good reproductions may be had." The Treasure Room collection has both. The harpsichord, restored in 1989-1990, is one of the oldest playable harpsichords in the country, built in 1610 by Vincentio Pratensis.

In 1993 a collection of 90 musical instruments built by Dr. Henry James was presented to Vassar College. The collection, which is principally stringed instruments, represents the entire historical spectrum from ancient Egypt to the present day. Instruments on display in the Treasure Room from the James Collection show a select group and are rotated periodically. For additional information about instruments in the Historical Musical Instrument Collection or for a tour of the collection please contact the Department of Music, during the academic year.

Exhibition label texts by Laurence Libin, Frederick P. Rose Curator of Musical Instruments, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York. Used with permission.

Slideshow

The Treasure Room, Dickinson Music Library

Trute Square Piano (London, 1781)

Trute Square Piano (London, 1781)

Albrecht Square Piano (ca. 1790)

Albrecht Square Piano (ca. 1790)

Broadwood & Sons Square Piano (1796)

Broadwood & Sons Square Piano (1796)

Chickering & Sons Clavichord (1909 reproduction)

Chickering & Sons Clavichord (1909 reproduction)

Giraffe Piano (Germany?, ca. 1830)

Giraffe Piano (Germany?, ca. 1830)

Pratensis Harpsichord (Italy, 1610)

Pratensis Harpsichord (Italy, 1610)

Martin Harp (Paris, late 18th century)

Martin Harp (Paris, late 18th century)

Clavichord (Germany, 1710)

Clavichord (Germany, 1710)

Sewing-cabinet Piano (Austria?, ca. 1830)

Sewing-cabinet Piano (Austria?, ca. 1830)

Steinway Square Piano (New York, ca. 1860)