History Of The Musical Instrument Museum In 60 Seconds

Photo of Paulina Gono
26 June 2017

The Musical Instrument Museum, also known as the MIM, is part of the Royal Museums for Art and History. With more than 9,000 instruments, the MIM houses one of the largest collections of music instruments in the world. Although the museum displays just a part of this collection — nearly 1,200 pieces — it occupies an impressive 3,000 square meters of exhibition space.

The history of the MIM dates back to 1877, when the museum was established to display early instruments to students of the Brussels Royal Music Conservatory. The first group of instruments featured in the museum originated from Conservatory director François-Joseph Fétis’s collection, bought by the Belgian government, and a collection of Indian instruments offered to King Leopold II. Thanks to the enthusiastic work of curator Victor-Charles Mahillon, the collection expanded to 3,666 instruments. Mahillon is also the author of the five-volume catalogue of the collection between 1880 and 1922.

For many years, the museum struggled to find a location. The collection was first established in an annex to the Conservatory and then in a large town house at Sablon, but as the collection grew, it became clear the MIM needed to find another place. Up until the ’70s, the MIM’s collection of instruments was housed in 15 different building in Brussels. Finally, the extensive collection moved to its permanent home: the Old England building located near the Mont des Arts. Designed by Paul Saintenoy, the stunning Art Nouveau building is the perfect location to house an impressive collection.

Musical Instruments Museum | © tpholland/Flickr |© Daderot/WikiCommons |© Eddy Van 3000/Flickr

Visitors can not only admire instruments from both Belgium and all over the world, but thanks to the infrared headphones, they can hear short musical samples of 200 instruments. On four floors there are permanent thematic exhibitions, featuring traditional musical instruments and a collection of mechanical, electrical, and electronic instruments. There is a concert hall on the 8th floor of the building which resembles a Greek amphitheater. On the top of the building is a restaurant offering guests a beautiful view of Brussels.

📅 Tuesday – Friday, 9:30am 5pm & Saturday Sunday 10am 5pm

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