Clean Sheet

See How University Archives Restored a Rare Piece of Maryland’s Musical History

Mandolin ensemble

A man’s phone call to University Archives in 2017 about a mysterious discovery in his late mother’s piano bench turned out to be music to the staff ’s ears.

Thomas Livingston had a hunch that the sheet music he’d found, entitled the “MAC Cadet Two-Step,” might have a UMD connection. Turns out he was right: The peppy tune, composed by 1899 Maryland Agricultural College grad and musical ensemble member Ira E. Whitehill (seated second from left), is Maryland’s oldest original published school song. The only other known copy resides in the Library of Congress.

Upon donation, the fragile find needed immediate attention. Enter conservator Bryan Draper, part of UMD Libraries’ preservation department, who set to work removing dirt with latex sponges and vinyl eraser crumbs, humidifying and flattening folded edges, and mending loose fragments with special Japanese tissue paper and starch paste.

The painstaking process will help keep the melody alive for many years to come.


Leave a Reply

* indicates a required field