New website documents UK’s historically significant musical instruments

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A virtual museum featuring sound, pictures and information about the UK’s most historically significant musical instruments launched on 31 October 2017.

MINIM-UK brings 5,000 years of musical heritage from 200 UK collections together for the first time in a project led by the Royal College of Music in partnership with the Horniman Museum and Gardens, Royal Academy of Music, University of Edinburgh and Google Arts and Culture with funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

From instruments owned by Charles II, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria and composers such as Elgar and Chopin to ancient Egyptian bone clappers in the form of human hands and a rare narwhal-horn flute, the public will be able to visit a single virtual location for the first time and freely explore the instruments.

MINIM-UK has brought together resources that were already online (for example, in collections held by the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum) and, for the first time, fully documented and digitised others. Its cataloguers travelled over 10,000 miles for 200 days to collect photographs, video and sound recordings and stories spanning from the Scottish Highlands to the South Coast.

Among the instruments whose sound is available online for the first time are the Habeneck Stradivarius violin from 1734 and the earliest known stringed keyboard instrument in the world, which dates from c. 1480. So far, the sound of over 400 musical instruments has been captured and this is set to grow in future years.

Thanks to the partnership with Google Arts and Culture, which works to digitally preserve ‘important cultural materials’ internationally, MINIM-UK represents a new model for a single resource that creates easy and free access to an otherwise greatly fragmented area of British heritage. MINIM-UK also aims to promote visitors’ numbers to small local museums and draw attention to little-known collections within large museums. It also dramatically increases the British music presence in international databases such as Europeana and the largest worldwide musical instruments resource, Musical Instrument Museums Online (MIMO).

Gabriele Rossi Rognoni, Curator of the Royal College of Music Museum, said:

‘The instruments collected by the Royal College of Music, Edinburgh University, Royal Academy of Music and the Horniman Museum and Gardens over the centuries, together with extraordinary collections across the UK, are an important part of our national heritage. It is tremendously exciting to work with Google to enable so many people to connect with these beautiful and fascinating objects in a myriad of new ways.’


Header image: MINIM-UK

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