Forgotten treasure

Berger grant will illuminate Ritter Collection

The single largest named special collection at TuftsŃa treasure of important works of music history, theory and composition that is virtually unknown outside the universityŃwill be made accessible for research and scholarship as a result of the fifth annual grant from the Tufts University Berger Family Technology Endowment.

Frˇdˇric Louis Ritter

The $50,000 Berger grant has been awarded to the project titled "The Frˇdˇric Louis Ritter Collection: A Paradigm for Special Collections Access and Use." The grant proposal was submitted by Michael J. Rogan, music librarian at the Tisch Library; Jane Bernstein, Austin Fletcher Professor of Music; Gregory Colati, university archivist; and Thomas Cox, web designer for the Tisch Library.

Frˇdˇric Louis Ritter was a noted scholar, composer and conductor. Born and educated in Strasbourg, he immigrated to the United States at age 23 and was named the first professor of music at Vassar College in 1867, serving until his death in 1891. He made significant contributions to the study of and appreciation for art music in America. His collection displays the intellectual curiosity of a scholar and the passion of a collector, and contains many important works from the 16th to the 19th centuries that cover all areas of musical interestŃhistory, biography, theory, composition and performance.

Trustee Albert Metcalf purchased the Ritter CollectionŃconsisting of more than 2,000 volumes, including 500 orchestral scoresŃat auction in the 1890s and donated it to Tufts to support the teaching of music.

The Ritter Collection's many years of use and the variable conditions under which it has been housed during the last 100 years have left many items in the collection in fragile condition. The collection has never been cataloged, and the complete contents of the entire collection remain a mystery to most of the Tufts musical community. Indeed, the very existence of the collection is virtually unknown outside of Tufts.

The Berger award is a result of a competitive proposal process that provides funding of $50,000 annually. The Berger family established the endowment to retrain library staff to be adept in the increasingly high technology world of the digital library and to prepare students and faculty to effectively use this technology. It is believed that the endowment is the first of its kind to train library staff and faculty in new technology.

The Ritter Collection project will demonstrate how technology can make accessible unique source material so it can be used in new and exciting ways to enhance undergraduate education. A series of colloquia will be given focusing on items selected from the Ritter Collection by nationally recognized music scholars who are interested in enhancing teaching through technology. A web site will be created containing the selected items.

In effect, the invited scholars will be promoting the use of the Ritter Collection by highlighting some of its treasures, demonstrating new research and teaching methods using technology and providing a model for Tufts graduate students, who will be encouraged to develop new expectations for the use of special collections.

The Berger family has been a generous donor to Tufts. Over the years, they have contributed to the renovation of Tisch Library and established an endowed professorship in the School of Engineering.