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The National Music Museum (NMM) was founded on the campus of The University of South Dakota on July 1, 1973. It is housed in a lovingly restored Carnegie library building, built in 1910.
The NMM's renowned collections of more than 15,000 American, European, and non-Western instruments are the most inclusive in the world, making the NMM the premier institution of its kind. Included are many of the earliest, best preserved, and historically most important musical instruments known to survive. State-of-the-art, self-guided multi-media tours allow visitors not only to see and hear many of the instruments, but also to learn more about them through curatorial commentary and videos.
The NMM is the only place in the world where one can find two 18th-century grand pianos with the type of action conceived by the piano's inventor, Bartolomeo Cristofori. One, built in 1767 by Manuel Antunes of Lisbon, is the earliest signed and dated piano by a Portuguese maker; the other, built by Louis Bas in Villeneuve lès Avignon in 1781, is the earliest extant French grand piano.
Other extraordinary keyboards include both a Neapolitan virginal and harpsichord (ca. 1530-1535), three 17th-century Flemish harpsichords (two by Andreas Ruckers), 17th- and 18th-century English, German, Portuguese, and French harpsichords, and German and Swedish clavichords.
The NMM's holdings of 17th- and 18th-century Dutch woodwind instruments by such makers as Richard Haka, Hendrik Richters, Philip Borkens, Abraham van Aardenberg, Jan Juriaensz van Heerde, and Jan Steenbergen, are unique outside of The Netherlands.
The NMM's holdings by 17th- and 18th-century Nürnberg makers, including members of the Denner, Ehe, Haas, Oberlender, and Steinmetz families, as well as Ernst Busch, Paul Hainlein, Johann Benedikt Gahn, Johann Carl Kodisch, Leonhard Maussiel, Michael Nagel, and Paulus Schmidt, are unique outside of Germany.
The Witten-Rawlins Collection of early Italian stringed instruments crafted by Andrea Guarneri, Antonio Stradivari, three generations of the Amati family, and others, by far surpasses any in Italy. Included are two of only three 17th-century Cremonese stringed instruments preserved in unaltered condition, one of only two Stradivari guitars to be seen in a museum setting, and one of only two Stradivari mandolins known to survive.
In May 2010, the NMM augmented its world-class string instrument collection with the acquisition of a violin made by Antonio and Girolamo Amati in 1595 for King Henry IV, ruler of France and Navarre.
A group of more than 500 instruments made in the late-19th/early-20th centuries by the C. G. Conn Company in Elkhart, Indiana, is a resource unparalleled anywhere for historical research about a major American industry and the American band movement.
The sum of these groups of American, Dutch, German, and Italian instruments is to be found nowhere else.
The 1994 addition of the John Powers Saxophone Collection (Aspen, Colorado) and the Cecil Leeson Saxophone Collection and Archives (transferred from Ball State University) make the NMM the preeminent center for studying the history of the saxophone.
The 1996 addition of the Rosario Mazzeo (Carmel, California) and the Bill Maynard (Massapequa, New York) Clarinet Collections make the NMM the preeminent center for studying the clarinet.
The 1999 addition of the Joe & Joella Utley (Spartanburg, South Carolina) Collection and the establishment of the Utley Institute for Brass Studies makes the NMM the preeminent center for studying the history of brass instruments.
The Alan Bates Harmonica Collection and Archives (Wilmington, Delaware), received as a gift in 2000, is second in size and importance only to the Harmonika Museum in Trossingen, Germany.
The William F. Ludwig II Collection, donated in 2001, includes an outstanding collection of historic drums dating from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, collected by father and son, William F. Ludwig Sr. and William F. Ludwig II, over the course of some ninety years.
The Paul and Jean Christian Collection and Archive (St. Paul, Minnesota), donated in 2006, includes a collection of 2,381 Western and non-Western musical instruments, including a world-class, systematic collection of more than 600 zithers, and is accompanied by an extensive archive of supporting material.
The Holton and Leblanc Company Archives, donated by Conn-Selmer, Inc. (Elkhart, Indiana) in 2008, document the histories of these two American companies and include more than 500 brass and woodwind instruments, in addition to the corporate archives.
The Arnold Ruskin Collection, consisting of 153 outstanding trumpets, cornets, and flugelhorns assembled to document the models produced by F. E. Olds of Los Angeles and Fullerton, California, was donated to the NMM in the fall of 2008.
The NMM’s Musical Instrument Manufacturers Archive (MIMA) includes more than 18,000 trade catalogs, price lists, periodicals, photographs, and related ephemera documenting more than 2,000 musical instrument manufacturers and distributors (with an emphasis on American manufacturers) to support organological research and cataloging. It is unparalleled elsewhere.
The NMM’s specialized research library includes more than 5,000 volumes, as well as more than 20,000 periodical issues to support organological research.
The Archives and Special Collections, I.D. Weeks Library, at USD, in collaboration with the NMM, received the Mahoney Music Collection from John P. and Barbara Mahoney as a donation in June 2006. The collection includes more than 4,800 books, magazines, pamphlets, and ephemera on all facets of stringed instruments and is one of the most comprehensive collections of books about violins and violin family instruments in the world, with the capability to support research on instrument lineage, historical performance and exhibitions.
The NMM is housed in a fully accessible, climate-controlled building, where 1,100 representative instruments are exhibited in nine galleries. There is a concert hall for performing and recording on historical instruments, study areas, a library, and a conservation laboratory.
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
Most recent update: March 1, 2014