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16 Nov 2017

Virtual views for musical instruments

Piano at Haddo House
Almost 100 musical instruments from across the Trust have been included in MINIM-UK, a new website that celebrates 5,000 years of musical heritage.

Almost 100 instruments from National Trust for Scotland properties are included in a new virtual museum.

Items that span 5,000 years of musical heritage from 200 UK collections have been brought together for the first time in a major new website documenting 20,000 historically significant musical instruments.

MINIM-UK – a virtual museum featuring sound, pictures and information about the UK's most important musical instruments – launched on 30 October:

From instruments owned by King Charles II, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria and composers such as Elgar and Chopin, to the earliest known stringed keyboard instrument in the world (c. 1480), ancient Egyptian bone clappers in the form of human hands and an extremely rare narwhal-horn flute, the public will be able to visit a single virtual location and freely explore the UK's most important musical instruments.

The instruments are currently held in 200 separate collections across the UK, including 98 instruments across 32 National Trust for Scotland properties. They have been brought together at thanks to a major project led by the Royal College of Music, in partnership with the Horniman Museum and Gardens, Royal Academy of Music, University of Edinburgh, and Google Arts and Culture, with funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

The 98 Trust instruments include rare pianos, several chamber organs and two large pipe organs: a fine 'Father' Willis at Haddo House (in its original state) and a Norman brothers instrument of 1905 with a player-mechanism at Fyvie Castle.

There is also a guitar reputedly once owned by Robert Burns and an 18th-century violin used by his dance teacher William Gregg – now restored to its original condition. There are several sets of bagpipes, some other fiddles and numerous gongs as well as some smaller instruments in various properties.

Guitar owned by Robert Burns

Guitar owned by Robert Burns

Fiddle played by Burns' dance teacher

Fiddle played by Burns's dance teacher

Gong at Inverewe House

Gong at Inverewe House

Dr Roger Williams, Honorary Music Advisor to the National Trust for Scotland, says the Trust's pianos are important treasures. He adds:

"Thanks to the partnership with Google Arts and Culture, which works to digitally preserve 'important cultural materials' internationally, MINIM-UK represents a new model for a single resource that creates easy and free access to an otherwise greatly fragmented area of British heritage. MINIM-UK also aims to promote visitor numbers to small local museums and draw attention to little-known collections within large museums. It also dramatically increases the British music presence in international databases such as Europeana and MIMO – the largest worldwide resource on musical instruments funded by the EU in 2009."

Gabriele Rossi Rognoni, Curator of the Royal College of Music Museum said:

"The instruments collected by the Royal College of Music, Edinburgh University, Royal Academy of Music and the Horniman Museum and Gardens over the centuries, together with extraordinary collections across the UK, are an important part of our national heritage. It is tremendously exciting to work with Google to enable so many people to connect with these beautiful and fascinating objects in a myriad of new ways. We are also delighted that thanks to the wonders of modern technology we have so many ways to allow people to explore these treasures."