Music: Mrs. Brown's Magnificent Obsession

IT began in the 1870s, when a young tourist named Mary Brown bought a little ivory lute in a shop in Florence. Aided by her indulgent husband, a New York banker, she went on to amass an incredibly diverse collection of no fewer than 3,390 musical instruments. By the time she died in 1918 at the age of 76, she had turned them over to Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art. But the Met, alas, had no place to display them permanently; so they moldered in storage for more than half a century.

Now the...

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