ASHLAND An unusual exhibit full of something piano students are familiar with is open at the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center.

“A History of Sheet Music” contains more than 40 pieces of sheet music, curator Heather Whitman said.

“We recently got a large donation of sheet music,” Whitman, who pieced together the exhibit with intern Chris Davis, a student at Rio Grande University, said. She said the sheet music is written for piano, but the donor was an accordion player, an instrument whose player may use the same music.

Whitman and Davis organized the exhibit on the main floor in chronological order, with a brief history given about each time period.

Sheet music was first published shortly after the printing press was invented in the mid-15th century. Previously, music had been written by hand.

Printed music became popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Whitman said, because it allowed the common person to enjoy music, as there were no radios and no other sources other than concerts.

“Sheet music was heavily illustrated, often with pictures of famous people, and that made you want to collect it,” she said.

Pieces from the World War I and World War II eras included many that focused on war and sent positive, patriotic messages.

One case of sheet music is devoted to two of the most popular composers on the 20th century — Irving Berlin, composer of “White Christmas,” and Stephen Foster, often referred to as the father of American music.

Whitman said the sheet music was simple to display and is “fun to look at.”

The exhibit will run through December.

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