Jump to content

Musical Instrument Museum, Brussels

Coordinates: 50°50′34″N 4°21′32″E / 50.84278°N 4.35889°E / 50.84278; 4.35889
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Musical Instruments Museum
  • Musée des instruments de musique (French)
  • Muziekinstrumentenmuseum (Dutch)
Exterior of the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM)'s Old England building
Interactive fullscreen map
LocationRue Montagne de la Cour / Hofberg 2,
1000 City of Brussels, Brussels-Capital Region, Belgium
Coordinates50°50′34″N 4°21′32″E / 50.84278°N 4.35889°E / 50.84278; 4.35889
TypeMusic museum
Public transit access
Nearest car parkNo
WebsiteOfficial website

The Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) (French: Musée des instruments de musique; Dutch: Muziekinstrumentenmuseum) is a music museum in central Brussels, Belgium. It is part of the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH) and is internationally renowned for its collection of over 8,000 instruments.

Since 2000, the museum has been located in the former Old England department store, built in 1899 by Paul Saintenoy out of girded steel and glass in Art Nouveau style, as well as the adjoining 18th-century neoclassical building designed by Barnabé Guimard. Located at 2, rue Montagne de la Cour/Hofberg on the Mont des Arts/Kunstberg, the museum stands next to the Place Royale/Koningsplein and across the street from the Magritte Museum.[1][2] It is served by Brussels-Central railway station and Parc/Park metro station on lines 1 and 5 of the Brussels Metro.


Early history[edit]

The MIM collection was created in 1877 and was originally attached to the Royal Conservatory of Brussels with the purpose of demonstrating early instruments to students. It consisted of a hundred Indian instruments given to King Leopold II by Rajah Sourindro Mohun Tagore in 1876, as well as the collection of the celebrated Belgian musicologist François-Joseph Fétis, purchased by the Belgian Government in 1872, and put on deposit in the Conservatory, where Fétis was the first director.[3][4][5] Its first curator, Victor-Charles Mahillon, greatly expanded the already impressive collection, and by the time of his death in 1924, the MIM consisted of some 3,666 articles, among which 3,177 were original musical instruments. He was noted for his astute judgments in obtaining these large collections by calling on philanthropists, mixing with erudite amateurs who sometimes became generous donors, and through friendly relations with Belgian diplomats in foreign posts, who sometimes brought back instruments from beyond Europe.[5]

François-Joseph Fétis, first director of the Royal Conservatory of Brussels

The monumental five-volume catalogue of the collection Mahillon commissioned, between 1880 and 1922, also included four versions of his essay on the methodical classification of both ancient and modern instruments, which was to serve as the basis for the organological Hornbostel-Sachs classification systems, still used today. Beginning in 1877, Mahillon also created a restoration workshop in the MIM, where he employed and trained a worker, Franz de Vestibule, to restore damaged articles and make copies of unique instruments in other public collections. Mahillon's successor at the Conservatory, François-Auguste Gevaert, organised several successful concerts of professors and students playing early instruments, in the 1880s.[5]

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

After the First World War, as donors and philanthropists as well as Belgium's famed instrument makers started becoming scarcer, only about a thousand instruments were added to the collections between 1924 and 1968. Until 1957, the curators at the head of the MIM—Ernest Closson (1924–1936), his son Herman (1936–1945), and René Lyr (1945–1957)—limited themselves to preserving the already collected instruments, in not always satisfactory conditions. Ernest is notable for editing several articles on Belgian makers for the National Biography and devoting a long monograph to La facture des instruments de musique en Belgique, which appeared at the 1935 International Exposition held in Brussels.[5]

With the arrival of the esteemed Latinist Roger Bragard, curator between 1957 and 1968, larger budgets became available from the Ministry of Culture, as exhibits were renovated, new personnel were hired, concerts were again organised, and new rare pieces were collected. Between 1968 and 1989, René de Mayer continued the momentum initiated by Bragard, assisted by a team of specialised scientists. It was at the beginning of the 1990s that the revival of the MIM really began, when Nicolas Meeùs took over its management (from 1989 to 1995) on an interim basis.[5] He started to design the layout of the museum in the former Old England department store, bought since 1978 by the Belgian State.[2] The restoration of the building lasted until 1994, when it won the Quartier des Arts prize for the quality of the renovation of the facades. The MIM moved under the direction of Malou Haine (from 1994 to 2009).[5] In 1998, the MIM became the official occupant of the building and it was after two years of development that the museum, renovated and resolutely modern, opened its doors to the general public.[6] Haine remains honorary curator of the museum.[citation needed]


The museum's collection presents Belgian musical history (including Brussels' importance in the making of recorders and various obscure proto-synthesizers (Ondes Martenot,[7] Theremin,[8] etc.) in the 18th and 19th centuries and as the home of the instrument inventor Adolphe Sax in the 19th century),[9] European musical traditions, and non-European instruments. Visitors are given infrared headphones in order to listen to almost 300 musical extracts of the instruments on display.[10] Information is provided in French, Dutch and English.

With over 7,000 pieces from all around the world, this museum houses one of the largest collections of musical instruments on the planet. Mechanical instruments are shown in the basement, traditional instruments on the ground floor, the development of the modern orchestral instruments on the first floor, and keyboard and stringed instruments on the second floor.[11] Among the notable pieces of the collection are the famous Rottenburgh Alto recorder, instruments invented by Adolphe Sax,[12][9] a unique set of giant Chinese stone chimes, and the only existing copy of the luthéal, an instrument used by Ravel.[13]

Besides exhibiting the permanent collection, the museum occasionally also programs temporary exhibitions and concerts of influential contemporary inventors such as the Baschet Brothers, Pierre Bastien, Yuri Landman, Logos Foundation and others.[14]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Gulliver". The Economist. Archived from the original on 25 January 2002. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Old England – Inventaire du patrimoine architectural". monument.heritage.brussels (in French). Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  3. ^ Damscrhroder 1990, p. 85.
  4. ^ State 2015, p. 166.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "History of the MIM | MIM". www.mim.be. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  6. ^ "Building | MIM". www.mim.be. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  7. ^ "Ondes Martenot | MIM". www.mim.be. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  8. ^ "Theremin | MIM". www.mim.be. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  9. ^ a b "Alto saxophone | MIM". www.mim.be. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  10. ^ "Visit with multimediaguide | MIM". www.mim.be. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  11. ^ "Galleries | MIM". www.mim.be. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  12. ^ "Adolphe Sax's collection | MIM". www.mim.be. Retrieved 24 November 2022.
  13. ^ Cotte, Roger J. V. 2001. "Luthéal [Piano-Luthéal]". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  14. ^ "Calendar | MIM". www.mim.be. Retrieved 24 November 2022.


External links[edit]