The OHS Pipe Organ Database

What you see when you read about organs on this site is not the "real" OHS Database. Information about the instruments and builders is stored in an arcane system that is generally referred to as a "relational database." For the most part, we can't get to that information, and it would be incomprehensible to us if we saw it.

This system allows us to categorize certain aspects of organs in such a way that we can go back later and look for just those characteristics. Computers are not very flexible, so those categories have been set up very rigidly. But, flexible or not, computers are very fast. The machine can sort through thousands of entries and look for organs in Alaska, for example, in less than a second. When it has completed the search, it can display what it found even more quickly.

As you might have guessed, there is a catch: the information has to be stored in a very logical way. Organists and organ builders are artists, and their best work may sometimes defy logic in achieving beauty. Computers don't work that way, work-a-day beasts that they are.

So if you are making a new entry in this Database, or updating an existing entry, pay particularly close attention to the categories in which you are entering information. Don't try to enter information about the placement of the organ in the room where the machinery expects you to enter information about its action. Computers are easily confused, being very logical but not very bright. Humor them. Make sure you understand the system that the Database is built on, and play along. It will be better for all of us if you do.

Format Requirements

In order to maintain consistency in several specific areas, we have established conventions that govern the format that must be used in making entries in some fields. Specifically, we ask that you take note of the following.

  • Location and Identification
    • Country. Select from the drop-down list. If a country does not appear on the list, notify us via e-mail to the Database Manager.
    • State/Province. Select from the drop-down list if you are making an entry for an organ in Canada or the USA. When enough instruments in Mexico are added to the Database to warrant the addition, Mexican states will be included.
    • City. Any entry for a city name will be cross-checked against the table of registered city names.
      • If an exact match is found, it will be automatically selected.
      • If partial matches are found, you will see a list from which you can choose the correct city name.
      • If no match (partial or complete) is found, the name you entered will be registered and added to the table of city names.
    • Street Address. This is helpful, but not a neccessary entry. The address is useful for anyone who want to visit the instrument, and it makes it possible for us to link the page to Google Maps, but the entry is not an essential one. If you don't have the data at hand, leave this blank.
    • Zip/Postal Code. Enter US Zip Codes or Canadian Postal Codes where they are known.
    • Institution. Sometimes a building changes hands and is renamed, even though the organ stays in place. In these instances, enter all names of an institution, separated by a forward slash, so that a search for either form of the name will be successful. Some examples from the current list in the Database:
      • First Methodist / Cathedral of the Rockies
      • Jewish Community Center / Second Congregational
      • St. Philip's Episcopal / St. Augustine African Orthodox
    • Building/Room. This entry is not essential but is helpful in the case of multiple instruments owned by a single institution.
    • Builder. Enter the name as it appears on the nameplate whenever possible.
    • Date. Use one of these formats:
      • Exact year: 2005.
      • Decade: 1830s.
      • Approximate year: ca. 1923
    • Opus Number. Use any format that the builder uses, including numbers, letters, etc.
  • Status. We consider two elements equally important when describing an extent organ.
    • State. We are first concerned with the degree to which the organ has been modified (if at all) since the installation you are describing was completed. We do, however, recognize that repairs may have been made; in such cases, so long as the repairs do not result in changes in mechanical or tonal substance, we consider an organ to be unaltered from its original state. Additionally, we reserve the term "restoration" for instances in which mechanical or tonal changes have been made in the past, but have more recently been reversed, so that the organ assumes a state it was in at some point in its past.
    • Condition. We are also concerned with the condition of the organ as a useful musical instrument. Recognizing that neglect or willful harm can render an organ useless to one degree or another, we record the condition of an instrument as a courtesy notification to those who might wish to visit the instrument.
  • Organ Details. Use numerals only for most of these.
    • Manuals.
    • Divisions.
    • Registers.
    • Stops.
    • Ranks.
    • Pipes.
    • Manual Compass.
    • Pedal Compass.
    • Compass Note [If one manual has a different compass from the others, add an explanation. Or if the Choir and Swell share a single keyboard, as in some nineteenth century organs, use this space for an explanatory note.]
    • Placement in room [Use the drop-down list, and if nothing appears to apply, add an explanation in the space for a note at the end of the form.]
    • Key action. [Now separated from the type of chest; there are only a few choices that apply here.]
    • Chest type. [Choose the most precise option from the drop-down list. It's OK to leave the choice blank. If the precise chest/action is not on the list, add a note using the space at the end of the form.]
    • Stop Action. [Again, use the drop-down list.]
    • Details note. [Use this space for further explanation of any unique features of the instrument, or for any other comment you wish to make that did not fit in the categories above.]
  • Console Details
    • Console placement.
    • Console Style.
    • Type of Stop Controls.
    • Type of Combination Action.
    • Type of Swell Shade Controls.
    • Playing Aids.
  • Notes
    • Use notes to enter any information about the instrument that is not covered by one of the other entries.
    • Avoid the simple statement "There 200X."Make a more substantive comment whenever possible. The date can be omitted, because the date of entry will automatically be appended to the status statement. Examples:
      • Recitals June, 2004.
      • Used regularly for services.
      • Playable, but not in regular use; church closed.
      • In excellent shape but not used during Mass -- replaced by praise band.
    • In all cases where it is possible to do so, indicate through a word or phrase whether the information comes from personal observation, contact with another person who knows the instrument, or from some print resource. Examples:
      • According to an ad in the January 2005 Diapason, rebuilt in 2004 by Schantz Organ Company.
      • A personal examination of the instrument was permitted by the church in March, 2004.
      • The organist [include the name only with permission] indicates an electronic 32' Diaphone was added in 1999 by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
    • Restrict the length to no more than two sentences where possible. Longer descriptions should be submitted as separate documents as attachments to e-mail to the Database Manager.
  • Links to related instruments
    • When to add a link. Links are meant to connect different stages in the life of a single instrument
      • When an organ is relocated, it should have separate entries for each location, and they should be linked.
      • When an organ is rebuilt or significantly altered, it should be given an additional entry, and the two should be linked.
      • When an organ is dispersed, each "child" instrument should have a separate entry, and all related instruments should be linked to one another.
    • When not to add a link.
      • When an instrument is completely replaced, the two unrelated instruments are not linked, even when they are in the same building.
      • When a single institution, building or room (typically a church or school) has more than one instrument, they are not linked. For example the Aeolian, Flentrop and Brombaugh organs in the Chapel of Duke University are separate instruments that are not linked.
    • How to add a link.
      • Before you begin to edit an entry, make note of the Organ ID for each related instrument.
      • Enter the ID number of one related instrument in the space provided.
      • If you wish to add more than one internal link to another Database entry, separate the individual Organ ID numbers with commas.