Historic violins, mute for over 50 years, will sing again in Chadds Ford

Historic violins, mute for over 50 years, will sing again in Chadds Ford

The Sanderson Museum in Chadds Ford will open its 51st Year on March 3, 2018 with their exhibit, “The Sanderson Strings, Singing Through the Years” which will feature the seven violins and two viola d’amores from the collection of Christian Carmack Sanderson.

Sanderson, a 1901 graduate of the West Chester Normal School (now West Chester University) and for whom the former Sanderson Hall was named, was a teacher and noted fiddler. His teaching career spanned 1901 to 1929 in small country schools.

Prior to the exhibit, the music room, laid out in the early 1970’s, lacked focus on the very instruments that made Sanderson a local icon. In addition, an out-dated environmental system threatened the integrity of the instruments.

In 2012, Museum Curator Chuck Ulmann spear-headed the research and fundraising for a state of the art HVAC system to better preserve the museum collection which includes original Wyeth’s, Civil War artifacts and letters as well as the vintage string instruments.

While most of the violins are well over 100 years old, their market value remains comparatively low. However, each violin illustrates aspects of violin making including truth in labeling and historic tariff acts, while others have associations with Sanderson’s life as well as noted musicians such as the violin played by 19th century Norwegian concert violinist Ole Bull in Wilmington, DE on January 21, 1845.

Visitors to the museum exhibit will learn the difference between the terms violin and fiddle, and know why the antiqued Stradivarius label in their grandfather’s 19th century violin is nothing to get excited about. They will also see one of Sanderson’s violins which was found in three pieces, covered with dirt in a local barn, now expertly restored by Wilmington Luthier, Teal Wintsch in 2015.

Later, concerts will feature two of the restored violins which have not been heard since before Sanderson’s death in 1966.

The three- year project and current exhibit was curated by former museum president Sally Denk Hoey of West Chester, who holds a Masters in Music from the School of Music at West Chester University.  Hoey, who came to the museum in 1997, has long held the dream of hearing the violins sing again said, “These violins which were once heard by thousands of people were not meant to be mute.”