from the NY Times, free registration required to read the whole thinghttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/10/nyregion/10harp.html?_r=1&...Excerpt:To a certain type of New Yorker, every Dumpster is a potential treasure chest, right up there with thrift stores and stoop sales.But if the scavenger gods offer only a finite number of prizes, Julie Finch might have claimed one of them.Last month Ms. Finch stood on her toes to peer into the Dumpster outside her building on West 26th Street and found a blue wooden harp distinguished mainly by caked layers of grime and dust and a snarl of broken strings.“It was this old thing with wires going in all directions,” she said. “It didn’t look like anything anybody could play.”Still, as a lover of found objects, Ms. Finch felt duty bound to take the harp home. She offered it to a neighbor whose brother is a composer, but the man’s wife objected after seeing its sorry condition. So Ms. Finch used wood-floor soap to clean the harp and discovered not only clusters of hand-painted gold shamrocks climbing the column and soundboard, but a brass plaque bearing the name of the instrument’s maker, John Egan, and an address on Dawson Road in Dublin.Egan, who is thought to have made instruments from the late 1700s until about 1840, is seen by many as the father of the modern Irish harp. In the 19th century his instruments were used by nationalist balladeers, like the poet Thomas Moore, who wrote “The Harp that Once Through Tara’s Halls.” Today universities and museums collect them.
Here's some more from the story:“The ancient Irish harp tradition, which goes back to medieval times, was dying out around 1800,” Simon Chadwick, honorary secretary of the Historical Harp Society of Ireland, wrote in an e-mail message. “Egan invented a completely new romantic type of Irish harp, which was very successful, and which formed the basis of all subsequent revivals.”<snip>In its more recent past the harp from the Dumpster had a connection to another figure who shaped the history of stringed instruments.The trash container had been filled when workers cleared out the old Augustine guitar string factory on West 26th Street, which recently moved to Long Island City. And the harp, it turned out, had belonged to the former president of the company, Rose Augustine, who died in 2003 and who had developed, along with her husband, Albert, the first nylon classical guitar strings. Those nylon strings, popularized in the 1940s by the iconic Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia, soon became standard.Ms. Finch reached Stephen Griesgraber, the executor of Mrs. Augustine’s estate, who said that several valuable instruments that Ms. Augustine had owned, including a Hauser guitar and a Kirkman harpsichord, had been removed from the factory but that the harp had been discarded, mainly because of its deteriorated condition.“Somehow that harp ended up with the rest of the rubble,” Mr. Griesgraber said. “I’m frankly really glad that Julie found it and is really bringing it back to life.”But rarity, it seems, does not automatically translate into riches. Although Egan harps are of intense interest to a select group of enthusiasts and are owned by well-known museums, they are not on the order of, say, a Stradivarius. Auction houses have listed Egan harps for up to $10,000.Ms. Finch sold the harp for $300 to a friend, Lorcan Otway, who plays traditional Irish music on a set of uilleann pipes and who had become infatuated with the Egan.“It was like placing a kitten that I had found,” she said. “I had a great sense of responsibility, and I knew he would take care of it.”<snip>Mr. Otway said that he was planning to fly to London with the Egan to have it restored by an expert. The procedure would probably cost several thousand dollars, he said, and the aim was to get the harp into playing shape while still maintaining its antique aspects.<snip>http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/10/nyregion/10harp.html
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