See the latest acquisitions in MIMʼs permanent collection

MIM’s ever-changing galleries reflect the museum’s mission to showcase diverse, interesting, and historically important instruments from around the world. Curators strive to acquire objects that tell unique stories and encourage a greater understanding of music’s essential place in the past and the present. Since it opened in 2010, MIM has worked to preserve music and musical traditions for future generations. The museum’s tenth anniversary year begins a new chapter for adding exciting musical content to our galleries and demonstrating the many ways music matters.

Of the many recent updates in the Europe Gallery, the redesigned Belgium and Bulgaria exhibits reveal especially dynamic changes; each provides context for additional musical traditions. Belgium now highlights several important objects from MIM’s collection, including the historic 1584 Flemish harpsichord made by Hans Moermans, a rare Mahillon contrabasse à anche (reed contrabass) made in Brussels in the late nineteenth century, and a colorful Gille costume, accompanied by noisemaker castanets. The costume is worn by boys and men who throw oranges or wave twigs and bells to ward off evil on the day before Ash Wednesday, or “Shrove Tuesday,” during Carnival. Another important addition is an accordeon made by Vital Scheerlinck around 1900. Scheerlinck established one of the first accordion workshops in Brussels around 1870.

Striking kukeri costumes, one made for a child, are impossible to miss in the expanded Bulgaria display. Differing greatly by region, some costumes are made from goat hair and feature jangling bells to scare away evil spirits and bring good health and harvest to the community. Also included in the exhibit are instruments that reflect the variations of traditional instruments in Bulgaria, including several wind instruments and a gadulka (bowed lute) with a modified fingerboard. One of the wind instruments on display is a midcentury three-piece kaval, or end-blown flute, that is unique to the region. Originally a shepherd’s instrument, it is now played by virtuoso musicians.

Other updates to the Europe Gallery include significant additions to the Norway and The Roma displays. One of the new acquisitions in the Norway exhibit is a noteworthy hardingfele, or Hardanger fiddle, made by Olaf G. Helland in 1907. These fiddles, unique to Norway, were first made in the Hardanger district in the seventeenth century. The Helland family was the foremost hardingfele maker for 150 years, and their instruments remain highly sought after by many of the best Hardanger fiddle players. Although it looks similar to a violin, this hardingfele is smaller and uses nine strings; four strings are played with a bow, while the other five vibrate sympathetically.

The hardingfele was formerly owned by famous Norwegian folk musician Sigbjørn Bernhoft Osa (1910–1990), a national icon who promoted fiddling traditions through radio and television performances. He recorded more than 350 traditional Norwegian slått (airs) during his long career as a Norwegian folk musician. In 1977, he founded the Ole Bull Akademiet, a center for research and instruction in traditional music in Voss.

Most recently the hardingfele was owned by Trygve Berge. A former Norwegian Olympic skier and co-founder of Breckenridge Ski Resort, Berge comes from a family of fiddlers. The instrument’s bright sound coupled with an ornate inlaid fingerboard, painted body, and lion-head scroll make it a wonderful addition to the museum’s collection.

A recently acquired 1940s Busato guitar is a centerpiece of The Roma display. Bartolo Barnabe “Pablo” Busato was born in 1902 in Chiuppano, Italy, and became a luthier in Paris, France, around 1925. In addition to guitars, Busato also produced mandolins, banjos, and upright basses. His rare guitars remain a favorite of today’s top players for their ability to project sound and produce pure overtones. Often described as “flute-like” in character, Busato guitars are ideal for musicians playing in the European “Hot Club” style made famous by Django Reinhardt.

Brimming with character, the guitar is in excellent structural condition, even with signs that it has been well played over the years. The thin spruce top and seasoned walnut body and neck are responsible for its light build—just 3.5 pounds—while expert design yields rich singing lines and crisp chords, with charisma unique to Busato guitars.

“As MIM celebrates its tenth anniversary, all of the galleries continue to evolve, and the collection is growing deeper with historically significant instruments,” says Rich Walter, PhD, curator for United States / Canada and Europe. “It is so rewarding to work together with everyone who helps make these changes happen, and we all take pride in seeing more engaging exhibits filled with stronger
collection highlights.