Organ Historical Society

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. Members consider organs in their larger context, and their audiences, builders, case designs, construction, geographical distribution, history, marketing, physical attributes, sound, and voicing receive the emphasis of attention. The society is a ready resource for nonmembers seeking to discover the significance and potential avenues of restoration for instruments in their care. Formed in 1956, the headquarters which had been in Richmond, Virginia for several years, moved to Villanova, Pennsylvania during the week of October 16, 2017.[1][2]

Organ Historical Society
Formation1956; 66 years ago (1956)
HeadquartersVillanova, Pennsylvania

Organ Historical Society Library and ArchivesEdit

The Organ Historical Society (OHS) Library and Archives—located at Stoneleigh, the Haas Family estate in Villanova, Pennsylvania—is the largest repository of organ research materials in the world. 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 Warminster, Pennsylvania, containing thousands of liner feet of business records and other documentation related to American and Canadian organ builders.

Pipe Organ DatabaseEdit

The Society maintains an extensive online database of historic and modern organs which includes thousands of organs that were built in North America (United States, Canada, and Mexico) whether they are installed on the continent or exported outside North America. The database also includes records of pipe organs built in Europe and installed in North America. As of November 2018, there are 63,913 database entries for new, rebuilt, or relocated organs; 30,053 photos and 21,512 stoplists. The database committee actively solicits information to update and improve entries.[3]


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. The Tracker is published quarterly, and contains many illustrations, vivid color photographs, and reprints of historic photos.

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.

The purpose in visiting the instruments is to appreciate, hear, and see them in their surroundings, compare them with similar instruments, and experience their aural, mechanical and visual attributes. Demonstrations are intended to showcase the instruments.[2]

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 Montréal (1999), Boston (2000), North Carolina/Virginia (2001), Chicago (2002), South Pennsylvania (2003), Buffalo, NY (2004), Southeastern MA (2005), Saratoga Springs (2006), Central Indiana (2007), Seattle (2008), Cleveland (2009), Pittsburgh (2010), Washington, DC (2011), Chicago (2012), Vermont (2013), Syracuse (2014), Springfield, MA (2015), Philadelphia (2016), The Twin Cities (2017), Rochester, NY (2018) and Dallas, TX (2019).  The 2020 convention will take place in Columbus.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Shea, Pat (17 August 2014). "Organ Historical Society holds convention in Syracuse". The Catholic Sun. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b Pinel, Stephen (November 2015). "Former Archivist, Organ Historical Society". The American Organist. 49 (11): 72.
  3. ^ "OHS Pipe Organ Database". Retrieved 20 October 2015.

External linksEdit