The Dayton C. Miller Collections relating to the flute may be the largest collection of objects dedicated to one subject in the musical arts ever assembled. This collection consists of books, prints, photographs, music, correspondence, trade catalogs, statuary, and nearly 1,500 flutes and other wind instruments given to the Library of Congress by Dr. Miller in 1941. A scientist by profession, Miller aimed “to gather all available materials relating to the flute, always proceeding critically and systematically, for the purpose of setting forth the history and development of the modern flute as an essential factor in the fine art of music.” In addition, the Miller Collection also illustrates how flutes have been perceived and portrayed. Miller placed his iconography into groupings such as “Animals,” “Pan,” and “Outdoors and Pastoral.” His gift included the stipulation that the entire collection would remain intact, as a history of the flute.
The exhibition As the Old Sing, So the Young Twitter takes its inspiration from the musical and verbal relationship between birds and flutes. In the often archaic definitions of words like “Twitter,” “Chatter,” “Record,” and “Warble” are links between birdsong and human music making. Using these four words, this exhibition explores the different realms of flute-playing, from the lively to the serene, and takes an etymological and iconographic journey through the depth and breadth of the Library of Congress collections relating to the flute.