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Lotta Van Buren papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 5

Scope and Contents

The Lotta Van Buren Collection came to Brigham Young University in two segments; one in 1955 consisting of a wardrobe of authentic Elizabethan costumes, a collection of old musical instruments, sheet music and a library of books about the instruments; and another in 1960, consisting of the personal papers of Miss Van Buren and her husband Henry Bizallion. The valuable instrument collection is composed of seventeen instruments, including an authentic chest of viols, all in playing condition. The two treble viols, the alto, the tenor, and the bass viols were built between 1660 and 1773. One of the bass viols was owned by George Frederic Handel. the keyboard instruments include two clavichords, a virginal, a spinet, and a two-manual harpsichord. A lute, a cittern, a vielle, (or Hurdy-Gurdy), an alto recorder, a Biblical psaltery, and a Pythagorean monochord are the other instruments. The collection has become an integral part of musicological study at Brigham Young University, enabling students to learn old music first hand by preparing and participation in programs utilizing the instruments.

The personal papers consist of recital programs, photos, research notes, lectures, sheet music, news clippings of her concerts, mementoes, and letters written both by Miss Van Buren and Mr. Bizallion. Nearly all of the letters were generated as part of the process of donating the collection to Brigham Young University.

Sheet music, newspaper clippings, research notes, recital programs, lectures, and correspondence. The items largely relate to her activities in restoring old musical instruments and in teaching about music history and theory.


  • 1896-1960


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Lotta Van Buren collection, 1912-1960, must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Lotta Van Buren (1877-1960) was a musician, restorer, and collector of old musical instruments. Lotta Van Buren was the grand-niece of President Martin Van Buren. She was born in Boscobel, Wisconsin, November 20, 1877. Her early schooling was completed at State Normal School in Madison, Wisconsin, from which she graduated in June 1896. She taught for three years and then decided to enter Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, to study piano. Later she studied with Harold Bauer in New York and in Europe. She taught piano in New York for many years before starting her career as a restorer of ancient instruments. She began her performing career with recitals in America and England, later devoting her talents to restoring and collecting instruments. She restored the Steinart Collection at Yale University, and the Cooper Union Collection and Joline Collection at Bernard College. She also assisted the Metropolitan Museum of New York City and Yale University in assembling and restoring their fine collections of old instruments. Her last major work of restoration before retiring was for John D. Rockefeller Jr., at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Upon retiring in 1940, she moved to California and married an old friend, Henry Bizallion, a musician. She died in May, 1960.


1 oversize box (1.66 linear ft.)

3 boxes (1.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



This collection contains sheet music, newspaper clippings, research notes, recital programs, lectures, and correspondence. The items largely relate to Lotta Van Buren activities in restoring old musical instruments and in teaching about music history and theory.


Arranged in two series: 1. Lotta Van Buren correspondence and manuscript, 1955-1960. 2. Lotta Van Buren research notes, lectures, and memorabilia, 1896-1938.

Other Finding Aids

Finding aid available in repository.

Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory available online.

Custodial History

The collection of priceless ancient instruments was donated in 1955 by Lotta Van Buren. Her personal papers were forwarded by the executor after her husband, Henry Bizallion, died in 1960. Early in the year Bizallion had gathered the papers together and organized them in an attempt to write a biography of his wife. He died before its completion.


Arts and Communications.

Separated Materials

Ancient instruments are on display in the Harris Fine Arts Center, 3rd floor. Photos and glass lantern slides of instruments were transferred to the Special Collections Photo Archive. "What Do You Know About The Piano?" is located in the Film Vault of Educational Media. Musical Dominoes game was transferred to the museum. Photographs have been moved to MSS P 47.


This item has been referenced in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections.

Register of the Lotta Van Buren papers
Megan Furcini
2011 February 25
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States