Brown, Mary Elizabeth (Adams )
- Sarah L.B. Brown
(b New York, May 30, 1842; d New York City, Feb 15, 1918). American collector of musical instruments. Brown was formally schooled until age 16 and married the banker John Crosby Brown in 1864. Family (including six children), church, and charitable work were foremost in her life, but from 1884 her interest in music motivated her to form a systematic, global collection of instruments meant to illustrate their development and diversity. Beginning in 1889, she donated more than 3000 instruments to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, naming the gift in honour of her husband: The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments of All Nations. The collection, of which she was de facto curator, attracted international recognition and remains the core of the museum’s instrument holdings, which also include her correspondence and a collection of musicians’ portraits.
Brown acquired instruments (including replicas to fill gaps in the didactic sequence) largely through correspondence with far-flung family, friends, missionaries, consular officials, and her husband’s international business connections. Although the collection includes some important masterpieces of art and design, Brown strove to collect typical examples illustrative of their times and places. For advice she corresponded with Alfred J. Hipkins, George Grove, Henry Balfour, Victor-Charles Mahillon, Sourindro Mohun Tagore, and other authorities, and she exchanged information and instruments with other collectors and museums in the USA and Europe....