I decided to highlight a recently discovered chestnut known as the Virtual Instrument Museum. This resource is the online version of Wesleyans ethnomusic instrument collection and illustrates the potential of digital collections to capture and preserve musical heritages. One of the interesting aspects of this collection is that its classification scheme is known as the Hornbostel-Sachs system (Svh). Svh is based on the dewey system and is the leading scheme of classifying instruments in the fields of organology (study of musical instruments) and ethnomusicology. Instead of my repeating the whole entry here’s what the good people of Wikepedia have to say about it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornbostel-Sachs

While the size of the virtual museum is limited and not all entries are complete, this following example is one of the museum firing on all cylinders. Note how you have the four options of images, audio, visual and qtvr. The description is dead on and the references and links to websites is a touch of class as well.

http://learningobjectsdev.wesleyan.edu/vim/cgi-bin/instrument.cgi?id=3#Context

Musical instruments were ultimately constructed to be performed upon and the issue of use versus conservation is a hotly detested topic in the field of organology. One of the beauties of this site is that it captures the sound and visual aspects of the instruments as a means of presenting both sides of this coin. Can you imagine if a massive collection like that of the MET was able to have a similar online counterpoint, which included audio samples from its collection of Stradivarius and one of a kind early music instruments? While that does sound to good to be true it may not be far off as check out what they got cooking up in Boston. Scroll down to hear the collection and enjoy

http://www.mfa.org/collections/index.asp?key=27

I obviously consider musical instruments to be some of our most important cultural artifacts. As online collections now enable us to hear instruments that we could never touch in a museum setting the possibilities for these collection seem more unlimited then those of many idioms. If this is the future of musical instrument collection then it has the potential to capture the creative spirit of the past.

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