Mimi, our Deputy Keeper of Musical Instruments, explains some of the ideas that will be covered in our upcoming At Home With Music display.
Keyboard instruments form an integral and familiar part of our musical life, both past and present. Yet, of all the Horniman’s significant musical collections, keyboard instruments have been among the most under-represented in the Music Gallery.
Each of the instruments in the new display has its own stories to tell.
Videos, drawings and explanations included in the display will get inside the instruments to show how they work.
But their design does not just display technical innovation. Style and decoration represent the artistic ideas of their creators, representing moments in the history of fashion and taste.
How people used keyboards, not only for private practice and tuition, but also in the rituals of courtship and status, can tell us more about past perceptions of love, marriage and social aspiration.
They can also represent social, political and even religious upheaval, acting as statement pieces for their owners and giving us an insight into contemporary minds.
The display will relay opinions and attitudes of those who knew the instruments and lived and played them. One of the instruments itself, a late 18th-century English harpsichord, has been restored to playing condition so that it can speak to us directly.
Once restored to a playable condition, this instrument will become a focus for lecture demonstrations, master-classes and concert performances.