It is said that museums bring history to life. Certainly, the objects under our care are brought to life through ongoing study and examination. This continued research brings the new perspectives and fresh interpretations that are needed to help us more fully understand our shared heritage.
As the project below demonstrates, seeing something in person is quite different than seeing it on the pages of a book or on a computer screen. A research team has undertaken a remarkable project—to build a working, playable replica of the upright piano found in our collection. In doing so, they have made some new discoveries about the instrument and its maker adding to the canon of knowledge of eighteenth-century American music and crafts.
18th Century Upright Piano
The anonymous eighteenth-century Germanic upright piano exhibited at Whitefield House is of great significance to American music history. It is believed to be the oldest extant American-made piano, testifying to the importance of music and the sophistication of crafts among the Moravian settlers in colonial America.
In November 2019, the Moravian Historical Society welcomed researchers John Watson, Tom Winter, and Michele Winter to the Whitefield House museum. Over the course of two weeks, the researchers thoroughly examined the piano with the intention of both uncovering the instrument’s history and creating a playable replica for the Moravian Historical Society. After nearly a full year of work, the replica is now nearing completion.
Their research offers some compelling evidence about its maker and date of construction. You can learn more about the researchers’ findings and get a first glimpse into how the instrument sounds on their website.