Greeley is a town full of music. This has long been the case. When I joined the team at the Greeley museums, I knew that, but I didn’t know that the museum housed a violin by a local maker, George W. Fisk.

I am a violinist, and my degrees are in musicology, so I was quite interested in this violin. Who was George Fisk? How many violins did he make? Is this instrument playable? All of these thoughts went through my mind. These questions provide a good starting point for research and this short blog is part of that ongoing research.

An interesting problem arises when musical instruments are given to a museum, especially a history museum. A decision has to be made concerning upkeep because all instruments need to be maintained to stay in peak performance shape. If the instrument is to be played, a balance must be struck between performance upkeep and safeguarding historical evidence.

A violin and bow lay on a table on top of books while a pair of hands points out aspects on the violin.

Museum staff view and discuss the George Fisk violin in 1972.

Instruments in a museum have to be evaluated before display. Is this instrument playable? Is it in playing condition or does it need restoration? What is the value of the instrument: is it historically significant without being played or is the sound more important? Is the change in an instrument’s function necessary for its survival?

The sound of an instrument, especially a wooden one, can close up if it is not played regularly. While some debate this, I personally experienced it when I bought my violin. It hadn’t been played in many years, but after I played it for a few months, the sound got bigger and better. Why this happens is another matter for debate. I simply know that my violin sounds better now than when I bought it.

So back to the Fisk violin. I don’t know if it is playable or not. I don’t know how much work it would need. Those are questions for a trained luthier. I am delighted that the Greeley Museums have this instrument so that I can continue to research it.

The violin is currently on display at the Greeley History Museum. If you’re interested in seeing it, please visit the webpage to see when the Museum is open for visitation.


Written by Stephanie Work, Historic Site Interpreter

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