A $250-million project, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is a 200,000-square-foot building with two floors of spacious, light-filled galleries and a collection of more than 15,000 instruments and associated objects. It is the biggest museum in the world of its type. MIM creates an exciting musical experience for visitors, immersing them in traditions from around the world. The museum’s galleries feature advanced wireless technology and high-resolution video screens, enabling museum guests to see instruments, hear their sounds, and observe them being played in their original settings—performances that are often as spectacular as the instruments. Select exhibits offer an insider’s view of how instruments work, the workshop displays detail the instrument-building process, and the Experience Gallery features musical instruments that guests can touch and play.
The museum’s distinctive global collection comprises instruments, artifacts, costumes, and audio and video recordings. MIM’s curatorial staff has traveled extensively to collect objects that convey the diversity of global musical practices. Each instrument was selected for its fine construction, the reputation of its maker, special provenance, or connection to a famous performer.
MIM’s collection was assembled by five expert curators, with consultation from distinguished ethnomusicologists, organologists, and other field experts, under the supervision of MIM president and director Dr. Billie (Bill) R. DeWalt. The bulk of the collection is highlighted in Geographical Galleries that focus on five major global regions. There are also special exhibition spaces such as the Mechanical Music Gallery, which features instruments designed to play on their own, and the Artist Gallery, which includes noteworthy musical instruments and artifacts associated with some of the world’s leading musicians. The museum opened its doors to great acclaim on April 24, 2010.
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) was founded by Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Target Corporation. An avid collector of African art and a world museum enthusiast, Ulrich and his friend Marc Felix originated the idea for MIM after a visit to the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium. Their unique vision was to create a museum and collection that afford equal representation to the musical instruments and music of every country in the world. Using state-of-the‐art audiovisual technology to show musical instruments being played in their original cultural context and delivering the sound of these instruments through high-quality headphones, MIM provides a one-of‐a‐kind experience to museum guests.
MIM curator April Solomon contacted Monty Levenson prior to its opening seeking advice on building an exhibit related to the shakuhachi. This led to an extensive, year-long collaboration, including Monty's wife Kayo, originally from Tokushima Prefecture, that resulted in the exhibit space pictured below. Both of the instruments displayed—a 1.8' jiari and 2.6' jinashi —are Tai Hei Shakuhachi. The authentic historical komuso outfit, from straw sandals to tengai basket hat, were graciously provided by Monty's friend, Daido Houun-san (formerly Barry Nyosui Weiss), a Zen priest in Japan, with the blessing of Takahashi Suiko-sensei, head of Onchido, a komuso group in Matsudo. Music featured at the exhibit include several Koten Honkyoku performed by Yoshiobu Taniguchi.