Musical Instrument Museum restores and displays antique music boxes

PHOENIX – This month, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, courtesy of a five-year loan from The Music Box Society International, will conserve and display 15 historic music boxes.

Prized by antique collectors around the world, music boxes were popular during the 19th and early 20th centuries and are a natural addition to the museum’s extensive collection of instruments from nearly every country in the world. This loan is especially significant because the music boxes are of such high quality. The oldest music box in the collection is ca. 1815 and they all operate in different ways from pulley systems to steam power to discs.

Highlights include:

  • A pierement street organ by G. Perlee Draaiorgels featuring 53 keys, 162 pipes and bass drum, cymbal, snare drum and woodblocks. The organ was originally designed with a hand crank that the player would turn to keep the instrument at tempo. The organ has been reconfigured to run with a motor.
  • A unique automaton depicts a clown selling masks. When turned on, the clown waves a collection of masks in front of his face. The eyes and tongues of the masks also move.
  • A child’s musical chair that plays music when a child gets up from the chair.
  • A model of Calliope designed by Tangley was originally powered by steam. The Calliope has been refurbished to use electricity to power the pneumatic devices.
  • An automaton depicts a picturesque seaside town with a windmill and ship. A pulley-like system of leather strings moves the characters and objects within the scene.

Guests to the museum can see the music boxes in a variety of different exhibits at the Musical Instrument Museum.

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