Exhibits at the Collection

Exhibits at the Collection

The Collection of Musical Instruments contains nearly 1,000 objects including instruments, instrument accessories, and more.

The Collection focuses on western European and North American art-music traditions, yet its holdings from musical cultures all over the world, including Asia, Africa, and Latin America, are continually growing. Many of the instruments in the Collection have been restored and are maintained in playing condition, allowing for their use in performances, demonstrations, and lectures, and on tour.

Instruments at the Collection

Strings

At the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, it’s easy to see and appreciate the art of the luthier. The Collection is home to a selection of string instruments from the Italian, German, French, and English schools of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and includes the Steinert and Skinner collections, the extensive Emil Herrmann collection, and other individual donations. Many of the violin family instruments in the Collection are in playing condition, as are some of the viols and plucked-string instruments. Some highlights of the string instrument collection include violins by Nicolò Amati, Andrea Guarneri, Antonio Stradivari, and Jakob Steiner, a viola by Lorenzo Storioni, a viola d’amore by Joseph Gagliano, viols by Pietro Guarneri of Mantua and Richard Meares, a lute by Sebastian Schelle, and guitars by Joachim Tielke and Antonio de Torres.

Winds

Over the past four decades, the Collection of Musical Instruments has been actively seeking to acquire wind instruments. The Collection’s holdings now include many 19th century American wind instruments, in addition to a core collection of instruments built by important 18th and 19th century European makers. Highlights include a Deutsche schalmei by Richard Haka, oboes by Jacob Denner, Johann Ferdinand Floth, and Guillaume Triébert, cors anglais by Henri Brod and Guillaume Triébert, flageolets by William Bainbridge, and Firth, Pond & Co., flutes by Thomas Cahusac, Sr., Thomas Stanesby, Jr., and Asa Hopkins, clarinets by Martin Frères and Johann Tobias Uhlmann, bassoons by William Milhouse, and Martin Lempp, a natural trumpet by Michael Sauerle, Sr., a circular cornet by Graves & Co., and a serpent by D’Almaine & Co.

Percussion

The Collection’s holdings of percussion instruments include the Robyna Neilson Ketchum Collection of Bells, which was acquired in 1975 and contains more than 180 bells, gongs, clappers, temple blocks, and rattles from around the world. The Collection is also home to late-18th century military drums from France and the United States, a West African kalangu (a double-headed hourglass drum), a Chinese hua gu (“flower drum”), a set of mid-19th century American minstrel bones, and an English town-crier’s bell.

Asia, Africa + Latin America

The Yale Collection of Musical Instruments first acquired a small number of Asian instruments from the Belle Skinner Collection in 1960. Since then, the Collection’s holdings have steadily grown to include instruments from the indigenous cultures of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Additionally, the Robyna Neilson Ketchum Collection of Bells contains bells from around the world. The Collection aims to increase its holdings by acquiring more instruments from various cultures. 

featured collection
The Andrew F. Petryn Collection
The most recent, large addition to our holdings of string and woodwind instruments. The collector—a musician, connoisseur, and the former Chief Conservator of the Yale University Art Gallery—bequeathed objects from his personal collection to Yale.
HNWhiteEngraving_YCMI 3686.2005
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Resounding Brass: Conch Shells to Silver Trumpets

Brass instruments have been used for centuries in various social contexts. This exhibition explores the evolution of brass instruments, from natural horns to valved technological wonders.
Japanese carp bell
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Bell Collection

The Robyna Neilson Ketchum Collection, acquired by the museum in 1975, features bells from around the world, rich in their varieties of form, materials, and functions.
Visitor at the Collection taking an audio tour.
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Keyboard Instruments + Audio Tour

Yale’s collection of keyboard instruments is comprised of more than 100 organs, clavichords, harpsichords, spinets, virginals, and pianos, representing every major regional school over a span of three centuries.