When you think of Henry Ford, you think of cars almost immediately. Violins probably don't come to mind, do they? While it may come as a surprise to some today, Henry was a lover of violins and classic American music. He loved the fiddle and country dancing, two things that reminded him of his childhood. Henry could often be found in Lovett Hall dancing with Clara Ford as the band played and dances were called throughout the night.
Henry amassed an impressive collection of violins in the early part of the 20th century. Those violins are now within the collections of The Henry Ford, but occasionally they are loaned to other institutions for exhibition or, in the case of Sphinx, loaned to promising young musicians, like Gareth Johnson, to be played for new audiences. Gareth recently played the 1709 Siberian Stradivarius during our National Day of Courage in February.
In this video, Curator of Domestic Life Jeanine Head Miller shares additional insight on Henry and his violins, and why having someone like Gareth play them today would have made him very proud.
Conservators at the Henry Ford Museum are collaborating with violin experts to prepare Henry Ford’s personal violin collection for an upcoming permanent display in Henry Ford Museum. The violins, which have been in storage for a number of years, are being examined, analyzed and in some instances conserved for long-term display and potential use in concerts.
In 2010 master violin restorer Ashot Vartanian of Shar Music in Ann Arbor, Mich., repaired the Bergonzi to prepare it for exhibition and a concert in Cremona, Italy.
Later this year Henry Ford’s 1703 Stradivarius violin will travel to Cremona to replace the Bergonzi, which will return to The Henry Ford for examination and analysis. Sharon Que of Sharon Que Violin Restoration and Repair is currently working with Chief Conservator Mary Fahey to evaluate the condition of the violin and to make necessary repairs. The retention of original varnish and wood as well as the preservation of the extraordinary sound of the violin is paramount.
Radiologist Dr. John Bonnett of Henry Ford Hospital and luthier Ray Schryer (Schryer Violin) partnered with Henry Ford Museum staff in 2010 to create CT scan (computed tomography) images of the violins in a quest for information concerning their condition and past repairs. Among other findings the scans revealed areas of old insect damage, previously unseen by the naked eye, in addition to delicate repairs on the interior of the museum’s Guarneri Del Gesu violin.