Organ Historical Society

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Organ Historical Society
Abbreviation OHS
Headquarters Richmond, Virginia

The Organ Historical Society is a not-for-profit organization primarily composed of pipe organ enthusiasts interested in the instrument's design, construction, conservation and use in musical performance. The main activities of the Society include promoting an active interest in the organ and its builders, particularly those in North America, through publishing efforts, national conventions, and preservation of library and archival materials. The Society also actively works to encourage the historic preservation and integrity of noteworthy instruments. It is a ready resource for nonmembers seeking to discover the significance and potential avenues of restoration for instruments in their care. The headquarters is in Richmond, Virginia.

Organ Historical Society Library and Archives[edit]

The Organ Historical Society (OHS) Library and Archives, located at the Talbott Library of the Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey, is the largest repository of organ research materials in the world. It is maintained by the Organ Historical Society with the assistance of the staff at Talbott Library, and directed by a Board of Governors, supported by a Friends of the OHS Library and Archives organization. Access is available by appointment with the Archivist.

Included in the collection are:

  • 12,000 books about organs, organ building, organists, and organ music
  • 450 periodical titles, including the largest body of organ serials anywhere
  • 400 dissertations about organs, organ builders, organists, and organ music
  • 20,000 organ stoplists, photographs, and dedication programs
  • 1,500 sales brochures, catalogs, and promotional publications from hundreds of organbuilders and firms
  • 500 nameplates from various organbuilders and firms tools, business records, and correspondence of defunct American organ building firms
  • 5,000 organ postcards
  • 15,000 organ photographs
  • Records of the American Institute of Organbuilders

Additionally, the OHS Library and Archives retains a records and documentation storage facility in Enfield, New Hampshire, containing thousands of cubic yards of business records and other documentation from American organ builders.


The Society maintains an extensive online database of historic organs covering all organs that exist or have existed in installations within the geographical boundaries of the United States and all organs that have been built in North America, whether they are installed within its boundaries or in other locations. As of 2013, there are 52,170 database entries, 16,021 photos and 12,372 stoplists. The database manager actively solicits information to update and improve entries.


The Organ Historical Society promotes their interests through a society magazine, The Tracker, and numerous publications through the OHS Press. The Tracker includes news and articles about the organ and its history, organbuilders, exemplary organs, regional surveys of instruments, and the music played on the organ. The emphasis is on American organ topics of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, and there are occasional articles on European topics. Most issues run 32 pages with many illustrations and photographs, and at least one annual issue is published in full color.

Originally the focus of the society was on 18th and 19th-century tracker organs but in recent years there has been a significant expansion of interest in early-to-mid-20th century electropneumatic church and concert-hall organs. Historic restorations of theater organs are occasionally covered. The OHS Press was established by the Organ Historical Society for the advancement and dissemination of scholarship about the organ, its music, literature, cultural contexts, and performance. The OHS Press accepts for publication material regardless of commercial viability if it supports the society's goals.


The Organ Historical Society hosts annual conventions. Over the course of a week, attendees enjoy numerous concerts in various venues in the convention's host city and its surrounding area featuring a wide variety of historic pipe organs. There is an emphasis on organs that have not been significantly altered, enabling listeners to gain an unadulterated appreciation of representative work of historic builders.

Recent conventions have been held in Central Indiana (2007), Seattle, Washington (2008), Cleveland, Ohio (2009), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2010), Washington, D.C. (2011), Chicago, Illinois (2012), and Vermont (2013). The 2014 convention will be in Syracuse, New York.

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