The National Music Museum: America’s Shrine to Music & Center for Study of the History of Musical Instruments (NMM) is a musical instrument museum in Vermillion, South Dakota, United States. It was founded in 1973 on the campus of the University of South Dakota. The NMM is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is recognized as “A Landmark of American Music” by the National Music Council.
The NMM’s renowned collections, which include more than 15,000 American, European, and non-Western instruments from all cultures and historical periods, are among the world’s most inclusive. They include many of the earliest, best preserved, and historically most important instruments known to survive. The quality and scope of the NMM has earned it international recognition.
The world’s premier collection of musical instruments, the National Music Museum (NMM) is a magnet for music lovers and an eye-opening discovery for people of all interests. More than 1,200 instruments and music-related artifacts are on public display — a fraction of the overall collection of more than 15,000 musical instruments.
The NMM’s holdings span history and include some of the world’s most famous musical instruments, from the ‘Amati King’ (the world’s oldest cello) and the ‘Harrison’ Stradivari violin to seminal modern instruments like Adolphe Sax saxophones and pop-culture pieces like Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley guitars. NMM highlights also include the world’s oldest playable harpsichord and the largest Javanese gamelan orchestra outside Indonesia.
Founded in 1973, the NMM will soon undergo a $15-million architectural expansion. With a funding campaign underway, the new complex will triple the current 23,000-square feet of gallery and curatorial space.
The NMM is the only place in the world where one can find two 18th-century grand pianos with the specific type of action conceived by the piano’s inventor, Bartolomeo Cristofori. One of these built in 1767 by Manuel Antunes of Lisbon, is the earliest signed and dated piano by a maker native to Portugal; the other, built by Louis Bas in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon in 1781, is the earliest extant French grand piano.
Other extraordinary keyboards include a Neapolitan virginal (ca. 1520), three 17th-century Flemish harpsichords (two by Andreas Ruckers), 17th- and 18th-century English, German, Portuguese, and French harpsichords, and German and Swedish clavichords.
A group of 500 instruments made in the late-19th-, early-20th centuries by the C.G. Conn Company of Elkhart, Indiana, is a resource unparalleled anywhere for historical research about a major American industry and the American band movement.
The NMM’s holdings by 17th- and 18th-century Nürnberg makers of wind instruments, including members of the Denner, Ehe, Haas, Oberlender, and Steinmetz families, as well as Ernst Busch, Paul Hainlein, Johann Benedikt Gahn, Johann Carl Kodisch, Leonhard Maussiel, Michael Nagel, and Paulus Schmidt, are unique outside of Germany.
The NMM’s holdings of 17th- and 18th-century Dutch woodwind instruments by such makers as Richard Haka (represented here by a soprano recorder made ca. 1690), Hendrik Richters, Philip Borkens, and Abraham van Aardenberg is unique outside of the Netherlands.
The Witten-Rawlins Collection of early Italian stringed instruments crafted by Andrea Guarneri, Antonio Stradivari, three generations of the Amati family, and others by far surpasses any in Italy. Included are two 17th-century Cremonese stringed instruments preserved in unaltered condition. Additionally, the NMM preserves one of four Stradivari guitars to be seen in a museum setting, and one of only two Stradivari mandolins known to survive.
The sum of these groups of American, Dutch, German, and Italian instruments is to be found nowhere else.
The 1994 addition of the John Powers Saxophone Collection (Aspen, Colorado) and the Cecil Leeson Saxophone Collection and Archives (transferred from Ball State University) make the NMM the preeminent center for studying the history of the saxophone.
The 1996 addition of the Rosario Mazzeo (Carmel, California) and the Bill Maynard (Massapequa, New York) Clarinet Collections make the NMM the preeminent center for studying the clarinet.
The 1999 addition of the Joe & Joella Utley (Spartanburg, South Carolina) Collection and the establishment of the Utley Institute for Brass Studies makes the NMM the preeminent center for studying the history of brass instruments.
The Alan Bates Harmonica Collection and Archives (Wilmington, Delaware), received as a gift in 2000, is second in size and importance only to the Harmonika Museum in Trossingen, Germany. The 2005 gift of the D’Angelico, D’Aquisto, Gudelsky Workshop was the focus of a major exhibition, “Great American Guitars” (by D’Angelico, D’Aquisto, Fender, Gibson, Martin, and Stromberg-Voisinet).