Musical Instrument Collection
The collection includes ca. 1,000 musical instruments from the late 15th century to the mid-20th. Among them is the earliest dated guitar (Belchior Dias, Lisbon, 1581), the earliest known stringed keyboard instrument (clavicytherium, Ulm?, ca. 1480), a harpsichord by Alessandro Trasuntino (Venice, 1531) and a remarkable collection of English viols (including John Rose, ca.1590, Henry Jaye, 1619, Richard Meares c.1680, and Barak Norman 1692 and 1694).
More than 770 instruments from the RCM's collection, including their photos, are accessible through the MIMO project. The MIMO database includes more than 55,000 instruments from collections all over the world.
Our interactive digital exhibitions feature many items from our collections, including pictures and recordings of many of our instruments. You can view the digital exhibitions at the Google Cultural Institute.
The RCM museum is also coordinating MINIM-UK, a major international project in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Music, the Horniman Museum and Gardens and Edinburgh University Musical Instrument Museum (MIMEd) to digitise ca.40,000 musical instruments from over 100 British collections.
Images from the Museum collections can be licensed for reproduction through the ArenaPAL image library. Currently available material includes:
- Images from the collections of instruments and portraits
- Carte de visite (visiting cards) of eminent 19th century musicians and other historical figures
- 'Spy' caricatures of musicians from Vanity Fair, 1873–1911
- Late 19th/early 20th century photographs and postcards from the Bayreuth Opera House and Festival
To view the materials, or to make an enquiry about image reproduction, please visit our collections’ partner ArenaPAL.