Historical guitars on display in a glass case in the Royal College of Music Museum.

Historic instruments brought to life through 3D modelling

Friday 6 January 2023

A Royal College of Music Museum project has been awarded a £33,000 grant from the Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Wolfson Foundation.

The Royal College of Music Museum has received a grant of £33,000 from the DCMS and the Wolfson Foundation to enable the creation of 3D printed models of historically important musical instruments from their collection, increasing outreach and engagement opportunities for visitors with additional needs and younger audiences as well as student musicians. The grant forms part of DCMS and the Wolfson Foundation’s £4 million fund to improve displays, protect collections and make exhibitions more accessible to visitors, with the Royal College of Music (RCM) one of a handful of London institutions to benefit from this funding.

The Royal College of Music Museum houses a collection of 14,000 musical items including over 1,000 musical instruments. The largest collection of its kind in the country, it is also one of the largest in the world focusing on the history of Western music. The Museum will create 3D copies of ten of the most recognisable instruments in the collection, including the earliest guitar in the world (Lisbon, 1581), one of the earliest surviving clarinets and two recorders from the early 17th century.

The grant gives the RCM Museum a vital opportunity to broaden the experience for their visitors and RCM students, increasing engagement with touch and sound which are so key to a musical collection.

The Museum reopened in October 2021 after a £4.8 million redevelopment, one of the largest ever investments in a music museum in the UK. It now has an accessible learning space, the Garfield Weston Discovery Centre, which aims to present musical performances with these models as well as a series of workshops and participatory events aimed at around 500 users with special needs each year. The Museum expects to launch the 3D models in March 2024.

The Royal College of Music Museum is a vital learning tool for students and already provides space for object-based learning as well as access to their collection of manuscripts, prints, letters and books through their extensive digitisation programme. The creation of 3D models will enrich the documentation and allow closer monitoring of the instruments as well as encouraging collaboration with institutions who are building comparable resources, hugely expanding the reach and usability of this leading collection.

Professor Gabriele Rossi Rognoni, Curator of the Royal College of Music Museum, said: ‘I’m very grateful to DCMS and the Wolfson Foundation. Historic musical instruments offer a unique insight into the sounds of our past and are a vital learning resource for students. They also offer a unique opportunity for non-specialist audiences to engage with music heritage through sound and touch. The ability to recreate these instruments in 3D will break the barrier currently posed by conservation concerns and the fragile nature of these instruments, allowing many more people to engage with our collection.’

The Royal College of Music Museum is open Tuesday–Friday, 10.15am–5.45pm and Saturday–Sunday, 11am–6pm. The Museum also hosts a series of concerts featuring RCM musicians. These take place on Friday lunchtimes and tickets can be booked online.

Entry to the Museum and its exhibitions is free. Museum entry can be booked online and some tickets will be available on the door without prior registration. 

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