The Henry Ford Violins: Where Medicine Meets Music

I would normally be concerned about privacy issues and other regulations regarding the sharing of clinical information about patients, but I am going to risk it to tell you about two recent and unique patients we examined at Henry Ford:  Mr. Stradivarius and Mr. Guarneri.

Actually these were not really patients but two extraordinary musical instruments: the 1709 Stradivarius and the 1744 Guarneri del Gesu.

These very rare violins – part of the historical artifact collection at The Henry Ford in Dearborn – weren’t here for the usual examination and blood work that we would recommend for 300-year-old patients.  They weren’t here for a tune-up either.

The Henry Ford, the museum and more which is one of the great treasures in the world, was hoping to make new discoveries about these “old world” musical instruments using some of our “high-tech” medical instruments, specifically the computed tomography equipment in the Department of Radiology.

So how do you use modern-day medical technology designed for humans to uncover the history of a 300-year-old violin’s design and repair?

Enter Henry Ford Hospital radiologist Dr. John Bonnett.

While his focus is on abdominal imaging at the hospital, he has made a hobby out of imaging non-human objects with the CT scanner – flowers, seashells, watches.

As you’ll see in the above video, these images are truly amazing art.

By comparison, scanning the violins required a bit more prep work than the flowers and shells.

Violin maker Raymond Schryer, along with chief conservator at The Henry Ford Mary Fayhey, accompanied the violins to the CT scan at Henry Ford Medical Center – Dearborn.

Before the scanning began, Mr. Schryer removed the strings and all of the metal from the violins. He even made a custom base for the violins, so each could sit on the CT scan table.

Dr. Bonnett then modified the existing protocols and created a custom setting on the scanner to fit the violins’ density parameters.

While The Henry Ford is still analyzing much of the data, the initial results of the scans are remarkable – revealing a long history of repairs, both large and small, and secrets to the design of the some of the most exceptional musical instruments in the world.

We are still trying to determine if Mr. Stradivarius and Mr. Guarneri are covered by Medicare or HAP Advantage programs.

I think you will see from the video describing the imaging as well as the hobby of Dr. Bonnett, Henry Ford Hospital is far more than just a hospital.

Read more about what the scan data uncovered about the violins on The Henry Ford blog.

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