PORTSMOUTH – Strawbery Banke Museum in December de-accessioned an antique cabinet organ and transferred the rare musical instrument to the collection of the Organ Historical Society.
Following initial discussions between the museum and society in July, Bill Czelusniak, vice chairman of the board of directors for the OHS and president of Czelusniak et Dugal, organ-builders inspected the Hilbus organ stored in the museum’s Carter Collections Center and determined, with reconditioning, it would be an excellent addition to the society’s collection for research and study by scholars of the instrument.
“The instrument is a ‘very antique’ one manual tracker organ with two stops/two ranks of pipes, foot-pumped of winding and fully enclosed in a solid walnut cabinet with various opening doors and panels,” Czelusniak said. “Even held protectively in its present condition, this instrument is a valuable example of early American craftsmanship.”
Czelusniak added the Hilbus organ is “a tremendous gift to the OHS, and a worthy occupant of the new OHS Headquarters, Library and Archives in Stoneleigh at Villanova, Pennsylvania.”
Jacob Hilbus (1787 – 1858) was an immigrant from Westphalia, Germany, who settled in Washington, D.C. and was known as an organ and piano tuner and a music teacher. He was also an organ builder, and from all indications, the first, active in the Washington, D.C. area in the early 1800s. Few of his works survive. One was originally installed in Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, somewhere around 1811 or 1812 and is now in the care of the Smithsonian Institution.
“We at the Organ Historical Society are grateful for the gift and assure you that the organ will be in good hands for its safekeeping and eventual restoration,” said archivist Byrum Petty.
“The de-accession of this piece for transfer to an organization that will maximize the further study of the Hilbus in the formal research setting of the Organ Historical Society is exactly the kind of curation and collaboration Strawbery Banke seeks in all of the museum’s collecting and preservation efforts,” said Lawrence J. Yerdon, president and CEO of Strawbery Banke. “Without specific Portsmouth connections, the Hilbus organ belongs with the OHS.”
Foley-Baker of Tolland, Connecticut, a nationally respected organ maintenance and restoration company and OHS member, will restore the organ to playing condition.