Instrument Conservation

By David Kunian, Music Curator

In early December 2016, the Jazz Collection at the New Orleans Jazz Museum was lucky enough to engage the expertise of Emanuele Marconi.  Mr. Marconi works as a conservator at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota. 

  Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau's homemade bass,   1978.118(A).008

Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau's homemade bass, 1978.118(A).008

He and I took an extensive look at almost all the instruments in the collection over the course of 4 days. It was very exciting for me both to hear more about the instruments that whisper to me when I’m in the Jazz Tower and also to actually pick them up and handle them, imagining how Manuel Perez felt as he put picked up his trumpet, or to admire the construction of Slow Drag Pavageau’s homemade bass.

In the course of those 4 days, we examined over 100 instruments that are in the collection.  It was extremely helpful and educational to get up close and personal with the instruments to see what condition they are in and the details of their current state.

Marconi was very impressed with the general state of the instruments.  They are, in general,  in excellent condition and being kept well.  I attribute that to my colleagues Beth Sherwood (Registrar) and Greg Lambousy (Jazz Museum Director) who supervised the collection before I came on a year ago.  

Marconi’s knowledge of the details of instrument brands and history was very beneficial. He pointed out how rare several of the clarinets in the collection were, and how certain other instruments were exemplary examples of their type.  In certain cases, he recommended different ways to store instruments such as the bass collection on the top floor and Preservation Hall percussionist Joseph “Cie” Frazier’s tom and bass drums.  

After he left, he emailed me his reports on the instruments, and I will be reviewing them so as to apply his ideas to the instruments so that they can be preserved so that future generations can know the intricacies of Dave Bartholomew’s trumpet or Sidney Bechet’s soprano saxophone.  In the not-so-distant future, we will be getting the instruments most in need of conservation to the National Music Museum for repairs and conservation.

Greg Lambousy, David Kunian & Emanuele Marconi

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