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Collection Information


Roslyn Rensch collection of harp materials


Most individually-cataloged music editions are in the Music and Performing Arts Library’s Special Collections area.  Personal papers, scrapbooks, and research notes have been deposited in University Archives.  Recordings are in the University Press Building Library storage area (several cartons at the end of the King Collection stacks).


Personal collection of donor

When acquired



Roslyn Rensch Erbes, professional harpist, art historian, and former harp instructor in the School of Music, received a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois in 1959. She is the author of several books on the harp as well as numerous articles. Her donations to the University of Illinois consisted of 350-400 items of harp music (solo and ensemble) including manuscript materials, items autographed by composer or arranger, and some late 19th-century editions (e.g., nine bound volumes originally owned ca. 1900 by Emma Weast Bichl, Chicago-area harpist); approximately 200 recordings (about 100 78-rpm records as well as LP, 45-rpm, and cassette recordings); books on the harp, on harp music, and music history; miscellaneous books in other subject areas (including 34 titles on numismatics); 38 scrapbooks compiled by Rensch, with materials largely from the period 1917-1968; extensive files of research notes, journals, programs, photographs, correspondence, and other personal papers; a scrapbook (with additional loose clippings) compiled by Margaret Sweeney, professional harpist in Chicago from the 1930s through the 1960s; harps and other musical instruments; art works and artifacts related to the harp. The Music Library retained the printed and manuscript music, recordings, books on music, and certain of the art works; journal issues duplicating existing holdings may have been discarded. Scrapbooks, personal papers, research notes, and some pictorial materials have been deposited in University Archives (10.7 cubic feet of holdings). Non-music books and pamphlets were forwarded to other Library units to be considered for acquisition. Musical instruments were donated to the School of Music, as was also a small marble statue of a harp player, currently on display in the School of Music harp instructor’s studio.

Access/Finding Aids/Bibliography

Individually catalog items can be accessed through the online catalog (see list below).  The Rensch Collection of scores, manuscripts, and books held in Special Collections can be found through the online catalog with a subject search of “Rensch Collection.” 413 items as of 2015.

Rensch’s detailed handwritten lists of donated items, as well as summary descriptions prepared by Music Librarian William McClellan, are in the Collections File folder (“Rensch, Roslyn”).  Also found in the collections file folder are an extensive file of correspondence between Rensch and Library personnel, memos concerning microfilming, publicity, or collection processing, summaries of Rensch holdings in the University Archives, photographs, and other miscellaneous documents. The scrapbooks have been microfilmed (20 reels).

 Rensch Donation of Circulating Items (PDF)

See Also

For additional materials see the Roslyn Rensch Papers, 1900, 1917-1993 Finding Aid at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music.

A brief description of the Rensch donation was published in Notes, the Music Library Association journal (“Notes for Notes,” December 19 vol.46 no.2, pp.377-378).

Index terms

Bichl, Emma Weast
Harp music
Recordings: 78 rpm
Rensch, Roslyn
Sweeney, Margaret

See also

Rensch, Roslyn. Harps and harpists . (London: 1989) [ML1005A36 H27]

Rensch, Roslyn; Harp, Lecturer. Who’s who in American music: classical, 2d ed. p.484 (New York: 1985) [Q. 780.922 W62]