Musical Instruments

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

The Horniman has over 9,500 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 those recently acquired.

The Horniman interprets instruments in a broad musical and cultural context. We aim to obtain sound and video recordings for most of the new instruments we acquire.

Recent collections of instruments from makers in India and the newest collections associated with street bands in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil are supported by rich audio and video recordings of performances. Instrument makers’ and collectors’ archives are also an important element of the Horniman’s musical instrument collections. Performance-demonstrations on historic keyboard instruments in the collection are given regularly in the Music Gallery

Collections within the collection:

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: