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Richardson and Bouquet Present at Conference in Mexico City

Conference poster

In early November (2010), Sarah Deters Richardson (Curator of Musical Instruments) joined Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet (Conservation Research Assistant), and former NMM Intern, Jimena Palacios Uribe, in Mexico City, to highlight the important work that the NMM carries out with regard to the cataloging and preservation of musical instruments, at a conference attended by museum specialists, musicologists and conservators.

The conference was spearheaded by Uribe, a professor of musical instrument conservation at the Escuela Nacional De Concervación, Restauración y Museografía (National School of Conservation, Restoration, and Museography), who spent the summer of 2008 as an NMM intern, working closely with Conservator John Koster on the conservation and restoration of various instruments in the NMM's global collections.

Richardson presented an introduction to the operations of the NMM as an example of a well-established and respected musical instrument museum, as well as a presentation about the methods that the NMM uses to catalog and organize its vast collections. NMM colleague, Bouquet, described the highly specialized, technical documentation of musical instruments in which he participates at the NMM, while Uribe presented a paper on the state of musical instruments in the museums of Mexico. The conference was well attended and sparked a lively, post-conference discussion about how better to serve musical instrument preservation in Mexico.

Right: Jimena Palacios Uribe, Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet, and Sarah Deters Richardson

Jimena Palacios Uribe, Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet, and Sarah Deters Richardson

The philosophy of preserving musical instruments as indicators of culture is a relatively new concept for Mexican museums. Although the country is steeped in musical traditions that date back millennia, not many musical instruments have been preserved or intensively studied. Ancient musical instruments discovered at archeological sites can be viewed in archeological museums, but this number is relatively few when compared with the country's rich musical history that includes instruments brought into Mexico from Europe as early as the sixteenth century.

Two of the greatest challenges facing music historians, organologists, and conservators of musical instruments in Mexico are 1) locating the historic instruments in the country (there is no catalog of instruments or a database containing such information) and 2) convincing both the museum world and potential funding sources of the importance of preserving musical instruments as primary cultural indicators. In order to draw attention to the importance of both of these tasks, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (El Instituto Nacional de Anthropología e Historia) and the National School of Conservation, Restoration, and Museology (Escuela Nacional De Concervación, Restauración y Museografía) jointly sponsored the November conference.

Organ in the Catedral Metropolitana de la Asuncion de Maria
 
Templo Mayor

Restored Organ in Catedral Metropolitana
de la Asunción de Maria

 

Visiting Templo Mayor

In addition to presenting at the conference, Richardson was offered a special “behind the scenes” tour of The National Museum of Cultures (Museo Nacional de las Culturas) where she was able to tour the conservation lab and view some of the instruments in storage. Other highlights of the trip included a guided tour the Templo Mayor and museum by one of the archaeologists working on the site, as well as seeing and hearing the beautifully restored organs in the Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María. These organs are the largest 18th-century organs in the Americas.

The sharing of knowledge among institutions and individuals, such as occurred at the Mexico City conference, fosters a better understanding of research methods, institutional collections, and priorities, as well as a sense of how the field of musical instrument study (organology) is developing worldwide. As a result of its pre-eminent, leadership role in this discipline, it is hoped that the NMM will continue to be well-represented at future conferences, whether in Mexico or elsewhere around the world.

Return to NMM Newsletter Index (December 2010)

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