American Memory | Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection

Introducing the Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection

by Jon Newsom, Chief of the Music Division, Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson's library is the foundation of the collections of the Library of Congress. Congress purchased it to replace the books that had been destroyed in 1814, when the Capitol was burned during the War of 1812. Reflecting Jefferson's universal interests and knowledge, the acquisition established the broad scope of the Library's future collections, which, over the years, were enriched by copyright deposits of books, pictures, maps, music, motion pictures, and many other kinds of material. These were supplemented by purchases, some of which were made possible by substantial gifts such as the Music Division's Coolidge and Whittall foundations. Established primarily to support musical performances, these foundations also extended the scope of the Music Division's acquisitions to musical instruments, and its activities to broadcasting and the commissioning of new works of both music and dance.

No gift, however, has been so richly diverse in format or comprehensive in its coverage of a subject as the bequest in 1941 by Dayton C. Miller of his collection of books, prints, photographs, music, correspondence, trade catalogs, statuary, and more than seventeen hundred flutes and other wind instruments. It was Miller's vision, ahead of its time, that musical instruments, when preserved in their original condition, are invaluable historical documents. In order to learn how old instruments sound, we are far better served, he believed, by replicating them from original specimens than by trying to repair those specimens, thus destroying their archival value in the process.

The new catalog published in this online presentation of the Miller Flute Collection describes the musical instruments in that collection. It is the cumulative, and, at times, collaborative record that has grown over time through the labors of Dayton Miller himself; former Music Division staff members William J. Lichtenwanger, Laura E. Gilliam, and, more recently, Catherine Folkers, who has made valuable contributions both as former curator of the collection and, independently, as a maker; by staff members Robert E. Sheldon and Carol Lynn Ward Bamford; and by others, principally Mary Jean Simpson, Michael Seyfrit, and Jan Lancaster. We are also indebted to the support and contributions of James Pruett, former Chief of the Music Division, and William Parsons and Robert Palian.

American Memory | Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection