The OHS Pipe Organ Database

The OHS Library and Archives holds thousands of original documents that describe the progression of a pipe organ from concept through design to complete installation, and those primary sources are crucial to historic investigation, whether it's conducted for scholarly purposes or to guide restoration and conservation. However, pipe organs have always been subject to change. That's as true today as it was when Schnitger built the organ for the Jacobikirche in Hamburg, where he reused some pipework from a previous century.

Because of those changes, the complete story of a pipe organ's progression through different stages of existence may not be fully told in primary sources in official Archives. Details of changes may, in fact, be recorded only in documents found in personal files or in institutional archives. In the case of some builders, such as Hook and Hastings, original company records no longer exist, and copies of contracts or correspondence in remote places provide the only surviving record of an organ's past state.

The OHS Pipe Organ Database, through its inclusion of auxiliary documents, functions as a digital archive of such items when they can be associated with a particular organ installation and when a site visitor sends us copies.

Types of Documents

Though photographs could be considered documents in and of themselves, we have organized our materials so that they are separate from other documents. For the purpose of display and access through the Pipe Organ Database, we also distinguish separately published stoplists and publish them in a different category. On the other hand, we don't put full specifications, including descriptions of action, installation, placement, and so forth in the "stoplist" category. We treat them as we would contracts or correspondence and organize them under the broader heading "documents."

Apart from photographs and stoplists, then, these are some of the types of original documents we include in the Database and associate with descriptions of individual pipe organ installations.

  • Organ Contracts.
  • Correspondence. Letters often include information about a specific instrument, whether they originate with builders, performers, owners, or simply people who have seen or heard an organ that has an entry in the Database.
  • Dedication Programs. The information included in programs of this type often include cultural and historical information beyond the description of a pipe organ.
  • Recital Programs. These are of particular interest when then include stoplists or other descriptive information.
  • Newspaper Articles. As with organ dedication programs, newspaper, journal, and magazine articles often include important historical information beyond technical details of the organ they describe.
  • Monographs. Unpublished articles, interviews, or even private musings can always shed additional light on the history of a pipe organ. We are pleased to be able to provide public access to such documents.
  • Other Documents. Digital copies of sketches, short notes, detailed drawings, or any other type document may include information that cannot be found elsewhere.