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 December 18, 2015
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) Global Collection -- Phoenix, Arizona

 The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is a 200,000-square-foot building with two floors of spacious, light-filled galleries and a collection of more than 15,000 instruments and associated objects. Built at a cost of $250-million, MIM creates an exciting musical experience for guests, immersing them in traditions from around the world. The museum's galleries feature advanced wireless technology and high-resolution video screens, enabling guests to see instruments, hear their sounds and observe them being played in their original settings---performances that are often as spectacular as the instruments. Select exhibits offer an insider's view of how instruments work, the workshop displays detail the instrument-building process and the Experience Gallery offers musical instruments that guests can touch and play.

Music is something all humans share, a source of beauty and comfort, a means to give voice to joy in times of celebration and a powerful force that brings people together. The museum's distinctive global collection comprises instruments, artifacts, costumes and audio and video recordings. MIM's curatorial staff has traveled extensively to collect objects that convey the diversity of global musical practices. Each instrument was selected for its fine construction, the reputation of its maker, special provenance or connection to a famous performer.

"The goal of the Musical Instrument Museum is to illuminate what is unique about cultures, and also what is shared and universal," stated Bob Ulrich, MIM founder and board chair. "MIM provides an experience like none other, allowing musical novices and experts, tourists and scholars, children and grandparents to hear, see and feel the powerful and uniting force of music in an entirely new way."

The Collection

MIM's collection was assembled by a team of expert curators with the consultation of distinguished ethnomusicologists, organologists and other field experts. The collection is highlighted in Geographic Galleries that focus on five global regions as well as in a special Artist Gallery that showcases noteworthy instruments played by many of the world's leading musicians.

MIM's Africa and Middle East collection has musical instruments from nearly 50 sub-Saharan and more than 20 North African and Middle Eastern nations. Guests can discover and explore the royal court music of Rwanda and Burundi, the drums of Benin's Vodun spiritual tradition, a brass trumpet that is part of the Porto-Novo palace tradition, and instruments from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The gallery also features many variations of the lute-like oud and diverse traditions employing harps, zithers, flutes and trumpets from the entire region.

The Asia and Oceania collection displays instruments from 50 countries and island groups in five sub-galleries devoted to the regions of East Asia; South Asia; Southeast Asia; Oceania; and Central Asia and the Caucasus. MIM guests can see, firsthand, a rare Javanese gamelan orchestra and the re-creation of a gong workshop.

Showcasing instruments from nearly 50 countries and city-states, the Europe gallery introduces guests to several stories of interconnection, innovation and discovery - from an antique charter horn and a foot-operated drum kit to a child's vessel flute. Some of these stories are familiar, others less well-known; some others show immense cultural achievements. Zithers, drums, pipes, flutes and fiddles of all shapes, sizes and materials fill the gallery. All demonstrate that people in Europe, just as others across the globe, have felt the need to continually create instruments as amplifiers of human emotion.

The Latin America collection showcases instruments and ensembles from some 40 countries and territories displayed in three sub-galleries: South America; Central America and Mexico; and the Caribbean. MIM guests can observe instruments common to several countries as well as unique creations developed by individual social groups. Highlights include one of the only complete ensembles of Andean panpipes on exhibit anywhere in the world; a re-created Bolivian Jesuit mission (c. 1800), with instruments by celebrated maker Ricardo Massun; and an exhibit devoted to the cherished tradition of folk plays called Christmas Sports from St. Kitts and Nevis. Throughout the gallery, the influence of European colonization and American innovation are juxtaposed with indigenous instruments such as flutes and drums.

In contrast to exhibits in the other Geographic Galleries, those in the United States / Canada gallery are organized by musical genre, instrument or manufacturer. Ranging from hip-hop to Sousa bands, more than 50 displays in the United States / Canada gallery explore traditional and popular sounds from the Arctic to the Mexican border. Guests can experience the diverse array of instruments that shaped the North American musical experience, including the Appalachian dulcimer, sousaphone, ukulele and electric guitar. The music of native peoples in the United States and Canada is highlighted in displays exploring old and modern musical traditions, with instruments such as the water drum, Native American flute and Apache fiddle. Special exhibits present iconic American musical-instrument manufacturers such as Fender (guitars), Martin (guitars) and Steinway (pianos).

MIM's Artist Gallery features musical instruments linked to world-renowned musicians and music innovators as well as video footage of various concerts, photographs, costumes and other special items. Highlights include:

- The Steinway piano on which John Lennon composed "Imagine";
- a variety of instruments and artifacts belonging to Elvis Presley, including the Martin D-28 guitar he used from February through June of 1977, which is the last guitar on which he performed in concert;
- Carlos Santana's custom Yamaha guitar with inlaid Buddhist motifs; an early Paul Reed Smith (PRS) guitar played by Santana, a precursor to the "Supernatural" guitar, named after his multiple Grammy-winning album; and one of his father's violins;
- one of Eric Clapton's Gibson ES-345 guitars from the 1960s;
- George Benson's Gibson Johnny Smith model guitar and one of the many Grammy Awards he won;
- flutes played by Grammy-nominated Native American artist R. Carlos Nakai;
- "King of the Surf Guitar" Dick Dale's rare collection of Fender amplifiers, keyboards and transformers; and
- one of the enormous drums played at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

MIM assembled a Curatorial Council, composed of representatives from some of the most important institutions with musical instrument collections in the world, to advise the museum on curatorial matters. Council members included Cynthia Adams Hoover, curator emerita, Musical Instruments Division of Cultural History, Smithsonian Institution; J. Kenneth Moore, Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge, Department of Musical Instruments, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Darcy Kuronen, curator of musical instruments, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Gary Sturm, chairman emeritus, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment; Patricia Grazzini, deputy director, Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Eric De Visscher, director, Musée de la musique, Paris; and Margaret Downie Banks, senior curator of musical instruments, National Music Museum, University of South Dakota.

Building Highlights

The 200,000-square-foot Musical Instrument Museum has two floors of galleries, the MIM Music Theater, Café Allegro and the Museum Store. Designed by award-winning architect Rich Varda and the Minneapolis- and Phoenix-based firm RSP Architects, MIM features a distinctive architecture that evokes the topography of the Southwest, suggests the museum's international scope and expresses the universal role of music across all cultures.

The façade of the museum is made of richly grained Indian sandstone that complements and blends with the surrounding desert colors. As guests approach the building entrance, they pass through a courtyard landscape designed by the leading firm Ten Eyck Landscape Architects of Phoenix and Austin. Desert plantings and arroyo environments surround the museum, creating a serene and welcoming oasis. The courtyard is further enhanced by a rotating bronze sculpture of blended instrumental forms, titled "Phoenix," by Belgian artist Louis Halleux as well as a series of simple pools of water that add a calm appeal to the space, similar to the small pools of water found in an Arizona canyon.

The two-story museum structure includes 80,000 square feet of gallery space, with a 450-foot-long flowing river-like corridor called "El Río" that forms the spine of the museum, links the central atrium to the interior galleries and offers changing views of the space. The wall finishes in Venetian plaster create patterns that evoke geological striations of the Arizona cliffs and canyons and allude to the rhythms of musical composition. The flooring is an Italian porcelain tile laid in a striated pattern; the ceilings feature light coves accented with linear light fixtures that move down El Río. Diffused daylight illuminates the galleries and public spaces through a ribbon of windows and skylights, while subtle lighting at night sets off and animates the building, in an abstract pattern much like piano keys.

In addition to Guest Service (the admission desk), the Museum Store and the Artist Gallery, the first floor of MIM also houses the Conservation Lab and the Orientation Gallery, which introduces guests to the rich diversity of forms, materials and usage of instruments around the globe. The Target Gallery hosts special temporary exhibitions like the MIM-curated "Beyond the Beat: Drums of the World" and touring shows such as "American Sabor," organized by the Experience Music Project in Seattle, which traces the Latin American influences in North American pop music.

The first floor also includes the Mechanical Music Gallery, with instruments from as early as the late 18th century. A highlight is the 27-foot-wide organ built in Belgium in 1926 by Theofiel Mortier, S.A., and remanufactured by the Decap brothers in 1950. Along with the 680 wooden and metal organ pipes, the instrument also incorporates two accordions, two saxophones, a xylophone, a drum set and other percussion instruments that play mechanically. Next door is the Experience Gallery, a hands-on space where guests can play an array of instruments that are on display throughout the museum, including drums, tuned percussion instruments, mbiras (thumb pianos), theremins, banjos and guitars. This gallery is adjacent to private event spaces that house special workshops, meetings, programs, youth parties and other activities.

A dynamic spiral staircase, with a unique floor mosaic map of the world at its base created with multicolored stones from around the globe and topped with an oculus skylight, draws guests upstairs. The second floor is devoted to MIM's extensive core collections arranged in five Geographic Galleries, which boast of soft maple-wood flooring and cherrywood doorway portals, hinting at the transition between geographical regions as guests pass through the various galleries.

Spanning the two floors of the museum is the 300-seat MIM Music Theater. Designed with spacious seating and state-of-the-art acoustics, the intimate hall is a premier venue for performances, films and seminars about musical traditions from around the world. Upon entering the performance theater, low stone walls and a stone-colored maple-wood stage greet guests, again evoking the rocks of the Arizona canyons. Reflecting MIM's mission to focus on the diversity of cultures and global musical practices, inaugural season performers hailed from Colombia, Sierra Leone, China, Brazil, Israel and the United States.

MIM Guest Information

Address 4725 East Mayo Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ 85050
Tel. 480.478.6000
Admission General Admission: $20
Teens (ages 13‒19): $15
Children (ages 4‒12): $10
Children 3 and under: Free
Hours Open daily, 9 a.m. -- 5 p.m.