Sarah Deters Richardson, Audience Development Assistant, Principal’s Career Development Scholar and Curatorial Fellow, Musical Instrument Museums, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh

Bespoke, different, specialist – but not exclusive: creating engaging public programming with a historic musical instrument collection

The historic musical instrument collection of the University of Edinburgh has been a vital part of the teaching of music since its founding in the mid-19th century. Historically the instruments were used for classroom demonstrations in the teaching of acoustics and music history, but over the generations, the role of the Collection has changed. As the appreciation of historic instruments and performance practice has developed, the demand for public programming has increased and today, these instruments are not only used for teaching, but also provide an opportunity for the public to engage with the Collection by seeing them in our instrument museums, participating in our diverse education programmes, and hearing them in our many concert series.
This paper will present the development and philosophy behind our current public programming and will explore the plans for our expanded public engagement campaign for the future. Attention will be given to how the University of Edinburgh balances the preservation of the Collection while trying to bring historic music and its instruments to a wider audience. The paper will demonstrate that historic musical instruments can act as a catalyst for discussion and engagement with the public.