top of page
  • Writer's pictureAMIS Blogs

The 20 Biggest Musical Instrument Stories of the Decade

Updated: Mar 28, 2020

The Terrorist group ISIS confiscated and destroyed musical instruments in 2015

As 2019 comes to an end, many people are compiling lists of the "best," "biggest," and "most important" stories of the past decade. It is a good time for this blog to suggest a list of stories that were big news in the world of musical instruments over the past ten years. The stories include positive news including new museum collections that opened and new archaeological discoveries. There were also disasters, both natural and man made, that were about the destruction of instruments. While no such list can be comprehensive, it is an opportunity to think back on the past ten years, and to consider many of these big news stories again.

2010: The Victoria and Albert Museum Closes its Musical Instrument Gallery Early in the decade, the Victoria and Albert (V&A) closed its gallery for musical instruments, removing nearly 260 instruments including items that had been a part of the royal collection. The space was renovated for use as galleries for fashion exhibits. While some of the famed instruments were later incorporated into other areas of the museum, the vast majority remain inaccessible to the public nearly a decade later.

2010: Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) Opens in Phoenix, Arizona

Even as the V&A announced the closure of its galleries, halfway around the globe a major new museum dedicated solely to musical instruments was preparing to open in Phoenix, Arizona. In April of 2010, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), opened in a purpose-built facility with approximately 200,000 square feet for galleries, conservation studios, and a 300 seat auditorium. The Museum is dedicated to presenting instruments from around the globe and it has become a major tourist attraction in the southwest United States.

Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, Arizona

2010: Nashville Floods Destroy Countless Instruments

The first year of the decade also brought epic flooding to Nashville, known as "Music City" USA, that caused billions of dollars of damage to the city's infrastructure and private property. The devastation included the destruction of many instruments. The Opry Museum collection and building sustained severe flooding and damage to pieces from the Roy Acuff Collection. Gibson guitars had millions of dollars of losses to both raw materials and finished instruments, and many private musicians, dealers, and rental agencies saw the loss of both vintage and new instruments.

Lady Blunt violin

2011: Stradivari Violin sold for Disaster Relief In 2011, another natural disaster prompted the sale of one of the most famed musical instruments. On March 11, an magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the northeast coast of Japan in the Pacific Ocean. This tremendous quake caused an enormous tsunami that devastated the country of Japan, flooding more than 200 miles of the coast. Perhaps 20,000 people died in the disaster and nearly half a million were displaced.

The Nippon Foundation decided that in order to help victims of the tsunami, they would sell the "Lady Blunt" violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1721. The instrument, well known for being in extraordinary original condition, attained an auction price of 9.8 million British Pounds (15.9 million dollars at the time) when it was sold in June of 2011.

2012: Oldest Instruments Ever Discovered In a much happier story, researchers announced in May of 2012 that the oldest instruments ever found had been discovered in a cave in southern Germany. The small flutes made from mammoth ivory and bird bones were found in a site that archaeologists date as more than 40,000 years old.

2013: Rijksmuseum Reopens with a New Music Display Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum reopened in April of 2013 after being closed to the public for more than a decade. In addition to new galleries featuring its famous collection of Dutch paintings, the Museum also showcased many of its other collections, including a new music room dedicated to its musical instrument collection.

Auditorium, Museo del Violino, Cremona

2013: Cremona Opens Museum Dedicated to its Violin-Making History

Another new institution dedicated to musical instruments that opened during the decade is the Museo del Violino in Cremona, Italy. The new state-of-the-art museum brings together collections that had been spread throughout the City into a single location, complete with public galleries, research facilities, and a beautiful concert space.