Blending Past and Present

Collections and Collectors

Westfield 40th Anniversary Celebration and Conference

Oberlin Conservatory of Music
October 23–26, 2019

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The Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music are pleased to present Blending Past and Present: Collections and Collectors, to be convened at Oberlin, October 23–26, 2019. This conference, marking Westfield’s 40th anniversary, will provide an opportunity for Westfield members and friends to reflect on the Center’s rich history, to celebrate its accomplishments, and to help shape its future.

In addition to numerous recitals by distinguished performers, it will feature papers and panel discussions that explore the broad theme of keyboards, collections, and collectors. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music holds a number of significant collections including keyboard instruments (organs, clavichords, harpsichords, and fortepianos), The Frederick R. Selch Collection, and the Conservatory Library Special Collections which include a large number of historically significant printed treatises from the 16th through the 19th centuries. In addition, Oberlin College is home to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, recognized today as one of the leading college and university art museums in the United States.

Areas we hope to address are:

• How have collections of keyboard instruments and music been acquired, defined, categorized, and (re)presented?
• What are the effects of bringing together objects from disparate times and places?
• How do collections reflect and construct historical, aesthetic, and organological narratives?
• And what are the functions of such collections, insofar as they navigate the conflicting demands of conservation and accessibility?

In addressing these questions, the conference will incorporate perspectives from performers, scholars, collectors, and instrument builders and restorers, enabling attendees to learn about keyboard music, culture, and instruments from multiple angles.


The program committee invites proposals for papers (25 minutes) or lecture-recitals (45 minutes). Topics may include:

• the definition and function of collections generally
• the history of current or former collections (curated by individuals or institutions)
• the resources and opportunities that collections provide to scholars and performers
• the role collections play in both the preservation of singular antiques and the design, construction, and dissemination of replicas (that model both existing and lost instruments), and
• the implications of restoring objects that are subject both to regular use and historical veneration.

We are particularly interested in presentations that explore the role of keyboard instruments in different kinds of collections — for instance, the inclusion of historical keyboards in art collections, or of player pianos or barrel-organs in technology collections — and the ways such collections frame keyboards as aesthetic, technological, and/or social objects.

We are especially receptive to proposals from younger scholars and hope to provide funding assistance for current students. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent to by January 15, 2019.