What an incredible place! There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the Museum of Musical Instruments. If you enjoy history, music, anthropology, or just killing time this is the place for you.
Looming large in elegant sandstone tiles, the MIM is by itself in a field and seems like it was accidentally dropped here. I can’t hazard a guess as to why this location was selected, but once you are there, you realize the drive was worth it.
The interior is cool, spartan, and bland preparing your senses to calm before being almost overloaded with the sights and sounds of the history and culture of music.
We spent 90 minutes there and it felt like we’d barely scratched the surface. Most of our time was spent enjoying the Artists Gallery, the Mechanical Music Gallery and the Experience Gallery.
The Artists Gallery is a treasure trove of instruments and costumes from performers of all genres. It is easy to forget time as you stroll from display to display, listening to recorded performances synched with the television displays. From Roy Orbison and Tito Puente to Taylor Swift and Pablo Casals, this gallery has something for everyone.
The Mechanical Music Gallery is chock-a-block with music boxes, nickelodeons, and player pianos of the most fantastical. Anyone who ever took apart a radio will appreciate the intricate mechanics behind these self-playing gems. Be sure to wear your headphones as the recorded content is educational and lets you hear several of the music boxes.
The Experience Gallery may be the most popular, given that you can get your hands on all sorts of instruments. I grabbed a terribly out of tune ukulele to play a bit, banged on some African drums, hit a few gongs (lightly, please), and tried my hand at playing the Theremin (so cool) at which I proved quite adept. It was a blast, albeit very noisy. My only drawback is that I do think parents should be a little more polite and not allow their children to wail on the Instruments for fear of breaking them. Some oversight of the free-range toddlers by parents or docents might make it a biiiiiit more enjoyable for everyone. 😳
Once we finished here, we went upstairs for a dash through the continental galleries. I can even begin to describe how amazing everything was, but I will state that curious homebodies and active nomads alike will be enthralled at the number of instruments and the detailed enthomusicological information about each country/region. Listening the the recordings from each country made for an exotic run through the galleries.
We ended our visit in the gift shop where we found plenty of great souvenirs for my friend’s family.
The MIM is a unique treasure and I’m embarrassed it has taken me so long to drive an hour north to visit. Even if you don’t like museums, do yourself, your brain, and your soul a favor and get to the MIM. Experiencing thousands of years of human history through the expression of music will leave you delighted, curious, and a little bit exhausted. Well worth it!!