The Collection of Musical Instruments

about the collection

Our Mission

The Yale Collection of Musical Instruments is committed to fostering an understanding and appreciation of musical instruments from all cultures and periods. One of the foremost institutions of its kind, the Collection acquires, preserves, and exhibits musical instruments from antiquity to the present, and showcases restored examples in demonstrations and live performances. 

The Yale Collection of Musical Instruments also serves as a laboratory for historical, artistic, and innovative exploration and education in the arts and sciences. It is a renowned study and research collection for scholars, musicians, and instrument makers, and a world-class museum that engages the public in the fascinating history of musical instruments through exhibits, publications, concerts, and outreach initiatives.

The Collection offers an extraordinary window into music history.

History of the Collection

The Collection was established in 1900, when Morris Steinert presented his private collection to Yale. It continued to grow over the next century, thanks in large part to donations from alumni.

Early History: 1900–1960

In 1900, Morris Steinert, an entrepreneurial figure who played an important role in shaping New Haven’s music scene, gave his private musical instrument collection to Yale, consisting primarily of keyboard instruments, establishing the Collection.

Major Acquisitions and New Location: 1960–1970

The acquisition of the Belle Skinner Collection (1960) and the Emil Herrmann Collection (1962) established the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments as one of the world’s most important such repositories. It was once called a “collection of superlatives” by an enthusiastic admirer of the Skinner Collection. In 1961, the Collection was moved from its original location under the dome of Woolsey Hall to its present location in a Richardsonian Romanesque building at 15 Hillhouse Avenue.

Continuing Development: 1970–present

Since 1970, the Collection has nearly tripled in size, acquiring the Robyna Neilson Ketchum Collection of bells (1972) and the Andrew F. Petryn Collection of string instruments and bows (2013). Today, the Collection is comprised of nearly 1,000 instruments and has helped scholars document the history of Western art music.

research
Research opportunities at the Collection have ignited curiosities, broadened knowledge, and influenced the career paths of students past and present.

More at the Collection

From concerts to research to exhibitions, the Collection of Musical Instruments is open and free to the public.

Concerts at the Collection

The Collection’s annual concert series introduces audiences to a host of historically informed artists. Many concerts feature restored instruments from the Collection.

Plan Your Visit

Interested in visiting the Collection? Here's everything you need to know, from directions and hours to information about scheduling a tour.

Support + Join

The Collection of Musical Instruments wouldn’t be what it is today without the contributions of its associate members and individual donors. Discover how you can support this vital cultural resource.