The Libraries invites everyone to join them in celebrating the newly acquired Nancy H. Rue Sheet Music Collection on January 25, 2019 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Music and Dance Library on the fifth floor of Glidden.
The sheet music collection was acquired in the summer of 2018 through the generous donation of its collector, Nancy Rue. There are over 2,000 pieces of popular sheet music in the collection, most of which comes from the early-to-mid-20th century during the Tin Pan Alley era.
“This event provides an opportunity for people to see highlights from the Nancy H. Rue Sheet Music Collection. They will also be able to associate with Nancy Rue, who will be in attendance,” said Carla Williams, music and special projects librarian and interim co-department head of arts and archive.
Rue worked as a reference librarian in Alden Library until she was promoted to head of reference and instruction in 1987. Rue later became the supervisor of all public service aspects of the University Libraries and the associate dean for public services before retiring in 2004.
According to Rue, she grew up in a family full of music lovers. Her childhood home even featured a large, upright piano where she practiced in-between her weekly lessons. Although she claims that she lacks musical talent, her appreciation and enjoyment for music never waned. In fact, she gained a newfound appreciation for music after inheriting her grandmother Alberta Huffman’s (also known as Mom Huffman) life accumulation of music sheets and books.
“Pop [Huffman] passed away in 1977 and within a few years Mom’s [Huffman] health was failing. With help from the family, her home was broken up and she entered a nursing home. It was then that I asked for and received possession of her sheet music—a lifetime’s stockpile dating from her youth— and discovered its appeal and my interest in it as a reflection of American popular culture and social history,” Rue explained.
Rue later expanded upon Mom Huffman’s collection while perusing estate and household auctions for pieces to be sold in her antique business that she ran with her good friend Connie Stanforth.
“I acquired a book or two on the history of sheet music and learned more about popular music in 20th century America, the development of the industry, the history of sheet music covers and the artists who created them. As I sorted through my grandmother’s boxes of music, as well as some of my early purchases from auctions, I refined my collecting criteria to categories, cover artists, performers, and composers I found most appealing and collectable,” Rue said.
Although the antique business ended in 1986, Rue held on to the sheet music with the intention of working on the collection after her retirement from Ohio University Libraries. While she remained fascinated by the songs of the early 20th century, she chose to donate the collection to the Libraries with the hope that faculty, staff and students will utilize the collection for their research and teaching endeavors.
“For the most part, pieces of music in the collection are not especially rare—though there may be individual titles that the staff may discover to be unusual and less available…What is significant [about this collection] is that students and faculty have these physical items to hold, examine, and study firsthand…there’s nothing comparable to having an artifact right in front of you,” she said.
The Libraries will be hosting a reception to celebrate the collection and its donor on January 25, 2019 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Music and Dance Library. Although there won’t be a formal exhibit, there will be a number of pieces from the collection on display for the reception.
According to Rue, the display will feature sheet music covers of familiar songs from the early 20th century. She said that the purpose of the display is to gain an appreciation for the various styles of artwork—ranging from Art Deco, to cartoons, to elaborate portraits and landscapes. The covers are also a historical reflection of their time, offering insights into popular attitudes, customs, dress, and habits of an earlier period of American life, she added.
Regarding the donation of the collection, Rue said, “I am pleased that the University Libraries has accepted my collection, which has given me much enjoyment and delight. Now, Library staff will be able to provide access, share it more widely, and promote opportunities for broader appreciation and study. I am very happy this is happening and my grandmother—if she could only know— would be astonished and humbled.”