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Collection on the Kimball Organ Preservation Steering Committee

 Collection
Identifier: M/A 0292

Description of Contents

The Kimball Organ Collection consists of one box which includes newspaper clippings, newsletters, programs, promotional material, and correspondence from the Kimball Organ Preservation Steering Committee. Files contain some historical documents from the 1920s, the time in which the organ was built, but most records pertain to the preservation efforts of the late 1980s, early 1990s.

Dates

  • 1927 - 1994
  • Majority of material found within 1986 - 1993

Creator

Access Restrictions

The collection is available for use in Special Collections during the department's open hours.

History

The 10,000 pipe Kimball organ has been part of the heritage of the City of Minneapolis since it was first installed in the Municipal Auditorium in 1928. Hailed as one of the finest pipe organs of its kind, it still remains as a tribute to the fine craftsmanship of the W. W. Kimball Company of Chicago, who built the organ at an approximate cost of $125,000.

The "Mighty Kimball" or "Voice of Minneapolis" as it was christened in 1928, is one of only three of its particular size ever manufactured by the Kimball Company. It is one of the largest pipe organs in the midwest, weighing over 30 tons, with handcrafted pipes that vary in size from 1/2 inch to over 30 feet. One of the unique features of the Kimball is the two consoles, a concert console and a theatre console, which in its early days rose dramatically out of the basement on elevators (a feature which was removed in the 1960s during the Auditorium remodel).

While the idea for the Kimball was strong, it lacked sufficient funding and support from the start, which caused problems throughout the organ's lifetime. A Twin Cities Musicians Union rule requiring the employment of 15 musicians whenever the organ was played, combined with the economic depression and new innovations in organ technology, meant that the organ was rarely played after its grand opening in 1928. Yet the Kimball was never forgotten and from the 1950s to the 1980s, it was used an estimated 10 or 12 times per year.

In 1986, plans were developed for a new convention center on the site of the Minneapolis Auditorium. With the backing of Mayor Donald Fraser and support from other city promotors including StarTribune Columnist Barbara Flanagan, the Minneapolis Organ Trust Fund was established to kickstart preservation efforts and save the Kimball from destruction. A committee of volunteers was also formed to raise an estimated $1 million to refurbish and reinstall the organ in the new convention center. Donors "purchased" pipes, benefit concerts were held, and dozens of corporations and groups contributed to the funds, eventually raising more than $700,000. An organ builder was selected to do the job and in July 1990, the organ parts were transferred from warehouse storage to the new Minneapolis Convention Center. Unfortunately, after seven years of struggle to save the organ, issues arose with the organ contractor and the job was left unfinished. Today, the Kimball sits disassembled in storage at the Minneapolis Convention Center, awaiting a new home or the chance to be rebuilt so it can sing again.

Extent

0.21 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials

English

Title
Collection on the Kimball Organ Preservation Steering Committee
Status
Completed
Author
Bailey Diers
Date
October 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.
612-543-8200