Care and Conservation


St Mary, Lavant, Sussex 1895
Hill restored by Griffiths & Cooper

Conservation and Environment

Conservation may be defined as work carried out to prevent decay. Even if an organ does not require restoration it may require careful attention to keep it in good order.

An historic instrument should be maintained by a skilled professional. When choosing an organ builder to tune and maintain the instrument, it is advisable that the choice should be made bearing in mind his experience and reputation in work with historic organs. The recommendations of an organ builder should be taken seriously. However, there is the possibility that they may be motivated by the prospect of financial reward, and impartial expert advice should be sought where necessary. Organs should not be tuned more often than is required for acceptable performance.

Responsibility for maintenance does not lie only with the organ tuner. Unlike modern instruments, historic organs were built at a time when the heating of public buildings was inefficient or nonexistent. Like furniture and other musical instruments, historic organs can be damaged by extremes of temperature and humidity. In particular, continuous winter heating leads to low humidity which causes dimensional changes in organ mechanisms as well as in other wooden furnishings. A relative humidity of 55% or above is acceptable but often not achievable if the building is continuously heated to over 16°C. Another problem is caused by heating systems that produce very rapid changes in temperature. Not only are they wasteful of fuel (much of the heat goes up into the roof) but rapid changes in temperature can upset the tuning of an organ.

The organ and its surroundings should be kept free of dirt and rubbish and should be guarded against interference or vandalism. Actual leaks of water can cause expensive damage if drips from a faulty roof or drain fall on leather and timber components. Organs should be protected if decorators or other construction staff are working above them. Organ pipes are made of soft metal and can be easily damaged by inexpert handling. Moderate use of an organ will not usually do any harm and is better than disuse


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