Note on Music Museums

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A preliminary web search on 15-16 October 2011 suggests that the topic is worthy of an overview for Australia with international links (is the development in Australia in its infancy compared with the US and major European countries?):

  • The knowledge base currently contains two articles: SWOT Analysis of the Australian Country Music Foundation Museum and Sandra Kirkwood's article on the Purga Music Museum near Ipswich, Queensland, which focuses on the local Purga music history that was developed through consultation with local people who used to live in the neighbourhood, and on the Purga Aboriginal Mission that existed in the area from 1915 to 1948.
  • The Grainger Museum is an autobiographical museum located within the University of Melbourne. It was built by the Australian pianist, composer, conductor and teacher Percy Grainger (1882-1961) and was opened to the public in 1938.
  • The Music Box Society International. "The mission of the Musical Box Society International (MBSI) Museum Program is to educate the public about automatic musical instruments, thus contributing to their preservation and enjoyment." It contains a comprehensive list of such museums defined as mechanical music only: US 43, Italy 26, Germany 24, France 20, UK 15, Switzerland 13, Netherlands 11, Australia 2, 9 other countries 22, total 176. The two entries for Australia are the Australian Museum of Mechanical Music, 338 Botany Rd., Alexandria, Sydney NSW 2015, and the South Australian Museum of Mechanical Music, Barossa Valley Highway, PO Box 24, Lyndoch SA 5351 +61 (8) 8524 4014.
  • Music museums are an important factor in Music Health Australia, which features a page on the Purga Music Museum mentioned above, and one on the Music Museum Outreach initiative of Music Health Australia. See also Sandra Kirkwood's Doing, being and becoming more active through playing part in community-based museum scenarios (2011).
  • The Aboriginal Australia Art and Culture Centre in Alice Springs contains exhibits of local Arrernte culture and an Aboriginal music museum including "the only didgeridoo university in the world."
  • Interactive virtual music museums appear to be in the ascendancy although this search revealed no major Australian initiative. The prime example appears to be the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD 57069. The museum from its website description appears to be very much orientated towards collections of instruments, rather than musical cultures, but this impression may not fully describe its scope.

General Australian museums contribute also importantly to musical topics. The Director of the National Museum of Australia (NMA), Andrew Sayers, delivered the Annual Address at the 2011 Assembly of the Music Council of Australia in Canberra, 11 September 2011. He defined the role of music in the NMA as (1) parts of the collection relate specifically to music and musicians, (2) music is part of the stories the NMA tell, including, for example, the story of the first performances of the Ring Cycle in Australia in 1913, in a forthcoming exhibition on Canberra' centenary in 2013, and (3) perhaps most importantly, that there is a strong dimension of performance in the NMA and music plays a big part in it.

Finally, there are links between major music-related libraries and music museums. The National Library of Australia's Trove in response to the keywords "music museum" lists 137 items as "books" (as at 16.10.2011), though few are Australian: two items relating to the Australian Country Music Museum, one to "Australian Music Museum", which is a periodical rather than a museum, and one to the Jewish Museum of Australia in St Kilda, Victoria, due to a loan exhibition from the Haifa Music Museum in 1983-84.[1] Music Australia is an online service developed by the National Library of Australia and the National Film and Sound Archive and other cultural institutions across the nation. It is briefly described in the section on other cultural ABS statistics in the Overview of Music Statistics: ABS. (More following in Overview of Music Statistics: Other Sources which is being entered progressively on the knowledge base during November 2011.)

In conclusion, music museums in Australia appear to be an emerging subject, worth describing with as much quantitative information as possible to support the narrative. We invite readers to take up this challenge!

Hans Hoegh-Guldberg, Editor, 16.10.2011


  1. Aaron Malnarick submitted a master's thesis to the Department of Architecture of the Massachucetts Institute of Technology in 2004, Blue Road: What is a music museum. It can be downloaded from Trove as a non-printable document.
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