About The Museum of Music History

The Museum of Music History (MOMH) cares for tens of thousands of musical artefacts spanning several centuries and displays a selection of them online in categories and in "Exhibitions of the Month".  Our unique collection of musical material encompasses sheet music, portraits, photographs, concert, opera and ballet programmes, ephemera and illustrated title pages, books, periodicals, sculpture, instruments, recordings and personal archives. All aspects of vocal and instrumental music are celebrated, from opera to popular music.  We provide access to researchers by appointment and are always seeking to build partnerships with other museums and institutions, including those involving the other performing arts.

Background

MOMH is the outcome of a meeting held in 2003 at the premises of the Royal Society of Musicians (RSM).  The late John Cruft, a Governor of the RSM, former Manager of the London Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of both the British Council and the Arts Council of Great Britain, chaired a discussion on Britain’s need for a comprehensive and fully accessible music and dance museum. Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Milan, it was argued, each has a flourishing museum of music, but London - despite an equally significant role in music history - lacks any such national institution outside its conservatoire collections.  Thus the Museum of Music History was founded, under the Patronage of Sir Charles Mackerras (1925-2010), and subsequently incorporated as a company limited by guarantee and registered as a charity.  Dr Stanley Sadie (130-2005) was appointed Chair, succeeded on his death by Paul Strang. In 2021 Paul Strang retired and the Board appointed Mark Bromley as Chair. An Advisory Committee of experts in different fields is central to the Museum’s operation, together with a dedicated team of volunteers.

The inspiration for the Museum and the rapid growth of its collections were due to the vision and passionate commitment of its founder, Oliver Davies FRCM (1938-2020), a distinguished pianist, musicologist and collector.

Collection

Our substantial collection is at present held in a number of ocations across London and Surrey.  Much of the material comes by bequest, often from the estates of distinguished musicians, scholars and collectors such as Thomas Beecham, Yehudi Menuhin, Beatrice Harrison, Marie Hall, Lawrance Collingwood, Philip Jones, Carl Dolmetsch, Margaret Campbell, John Watt and Emmie Tillett.  Recent acquisitions include an Erard square piano (1808) owned by Napoleon, a Broadwood grand piano (1850) owned by William Sterndale Bennett, a portrait of Sir George Grove (1861) by Sir Henry Phillips and a pre-historic clay cuckoo flute.

Future

We are working to expand public engagement by establishing a physical presence thereby opening our doors to school parties and the general public.  This means finding an exhibition space in addition to our storage premises, ideally in collaboration with other partners.  Our exhibitions and educational initiatives, whether online or physical, will continue to share items with other collections and archives.

The Museum has pledged to it a large number of privately held items and collections. We welcome enquiries from any individual or public body wishing to find a secure place for their material and those wishing to endow such donations.

 

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