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Music making around the world is represented by the Horniman’s collection of musical instruments, one of the most comprehensive in the UK.

The museum has over 8,000 objects made to produce sound.  The oldest is a pair of bone clappers in the form of human hands made in Egypt around 3,500 years ago. Electric guitars and synthesizers are among the most recently acquired.

The Horniman interprets instruments in a broad musical and cultural context. It aims to acquire sound and video recordings for each new instrument. Recent collections of instruments from makers in Belarus and Uzbekistan, and the newest collections associated with traditional music in India, are supported by rich audio and video recordings of performance and instrument making. Instrument makers’ and collectors’ archives are also an important element of the Horniman’s musical instrument collections. 

Collections within the collections:

  • The Adam Carse Collection (European wind instruments, archive)
  • The Dolmetsch Collection (European string, keyboard and wind instruments)
  • The Wayne Collection (concertinas and free reed instruments)
  • The Boosey and Hawkes collection  (European wind instruments, archive)
  • The V&A loan (European string, keyboard and wind instruments)

Useful resources