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About the Museum

Dias guitar detail
The Royal College of Music Museum maintains one of the richest and most relevant collections of music-related objects in the UK and Europe. Standing in excess of 25,000 items, it represents a range of music-making activities over a period of more than five centuries.

The Museum building is undergoing an exciting redevelopment and is closed to visitors during construction work. However, you can still access many of our treasures through our online catalogue and digital exhibitions.

The Museum was founded in 1892 and we now preserve a vast range of instruments, portraits, engravings, sculptures and photographs, which offer unique insights into musical practices across the ages. Music in London in the 18th and 19th centuries is particularly well represented, including examples from private performances and music for the stage.

Highlights from the collection include the earliest known guitar in the world, the earliest stringed keyboard instrument and the best known portraits of Joseph Haydn and Farinelli.

Our collections have been an integral part of the RCM’s identity since its foundation. They have continued to grow thanks to generous donations and successful acquisitions. The RCM’s Library and Museum each has its own team of experienced staff who manage and conserve specific parts of the overall collection.

The valuable historical artefacts held by the Museum are often the focus of teaching and other RCM activities, particularly in Historical Performance and Research. Many of the instruments are in playing condition and often brought to life in performance by RCM students and professors. 

Through the collection we are able to support learning in a very tangible way, offering students the vital opportunity to engage directly with music history and the RCM’s impressive legacy. Furthermmore, extensive conservation and digitisation ensures the collection remains protected and accessible to a wide range of people for generations to come.

National Lottery Heritage Fund support

The Royal College of Music Museum is undergoing a major redevelopment, which will provide new facilities for displaying and engaging with our collection. The redevelopment is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which awarded a £3.6 million grant in October 2016, and forms part of a larger £40 million philanthropic investment in the future of music education. In addition to a new Museum, the RCM is pursuing new performance and rehearsal spaces, improved access, more scholarships and an expanded infrastructure for teaching and digital innovation.

Find out more

Although the Museum building is closed to allow this redevelopment work to take place, students and the general public can still benefit from our rich resources through a number of schemes, including a series of digital exhibitions hosted by Google Arts & Culture.

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