Posted: Tuesday, September 2, 2014
The Department of Musical Instruments continues to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the first gift of musical instruments from Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown, who over several decades built a collection of more than 3,300 instruments for the Museum. The collection she gave is named for her husband, John Crosby Brown, and still forms the majority of the Museum's departmental holdings.
Posted: Monday, August 25, 2014
Among the more distinguished benefactors of the Museum's collection of musical instruments was Raja Sir Sourindro Mohun Tagore (1840–1914), a leading figure in the Bengal Renaissance of the late nineteenth century, as well as an educator, patron of music, and musicologist. Tagore was born in 1840 in Calcutta, then the capital of British India, to a Brahmin family—wealthy merchants with lands formerly owned by ruling aristocrats, who were fluent in English and conversant with Western European knowledge. The British often conferred the aristocratic title of Raja on prominent citizens; Tagore's brother inherited the senior title Maharaja, and, in 1880, Tagore himself was titled Raja, though his family had no political authority.
Posted: Monday, July 28, 2014
From 1889–1909 Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown was regarded as the authority in America on musical instruments from all over the world. By her death in 1918 she had lavished more than 3,300 instruments on The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her first gift, in 1889, consisted of 276 instruments—mostly objects from distant places and "savage and oriental" peoples, as she described them in the parlance of her day. By 1901 these instruments occupied five rooms, or ten percent of the total number of galleries in the Museum at the time. Brown called her collection, as an acknowledgement of its scope and in honor of her husband, "The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments of All Nations."
Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Frances Morris (1866–1955) was not only the first woman to work as a professional at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, but she was also, effectively, the first curator of the Museum's collection of musical instruments. The daughter of a minister and raised in New York, little is known of her early life and education, and there is no evidence that she had any professional degrees or musical training.
Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
With her letter of February 16, 1889, Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown (1842–1918) became a "surprise collector" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. As a woman of the time, her confident, independent tone was as unexpected as her collection was little known. She was the wife of a respected New York merchant banker, John Crosby Brown of Brown Bros. & Co., and she herself was of impeccable New England ancestry—the grand-daughter of shipbuilders, clergymen, and schoolmen.
Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014
This year the Museum officially celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments. In 1889 Mrs. John Crosby Brown, the largest donor in the Department's history, gave the first 278 of what would ultimately be more than 3,000 instruments. She was not the founder of the Museum's instrument collection, however—that honor belongs to Joseph W. Drexel (1830–1888). This post is dedicated to Drexel, and is the first in an occasional series that will highlight the history of the collection during this anniversary year.