Minority Rites

July 11, 2009

niche One of the happiest developments for those of us with interests that inhabit what are called niches is that no niche-interest is too small to get its full due through new media. There seems to be a blog for everything, and communication between people involved with the rarest pursuit can find fellow-enthusiasts somewhere in the world to gratify and stoke that zeal. Marketing has come to see the power of this phenomenon under the label of the “long tail” — out of which fortunes are being made on what would once have been deemed unprofitable minority concerns.

Some of these niches, of course, predate digital media but nevertheless profit from them and the communication they forward. Those interested, for example, in the history of the design, technology, manufacture, preservation, and restoration of pipe organs have long merited their reputation as a particularly hardy lot. The Organ Historical Society was founded in 1956, largely under the influence of the doyenne of organ historians, Barbara Owen, for whom that adjective hardy would constitute a laughable understatement. At the time when the Society was founded, the keenest interest among historians and amateurs was focused on the mechanical-action pipe organs that had predated the innovations involving pneumatic and electrical means, starting in the late 19th century. Their interest was far from being all abstract, for valuable monuments to artistic creativity and technological genius were being destroyed constantly in those days, simply for want of an appreciation for their irreplaceable value — a value often obscured by poor maintenance or the redundancy or altered purpose of the venues that housed them.
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