It is hard not to spend hours in the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). The former CEO and chairman of Target Corporation, Robert J. Ulrich, founded the museum, which opened on Apr. 24, 2010. He was an art collector who, with his friend Marc Felix, decided to model their museum after the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium, but they wanted to make the experience more unique. Together they began creating the expansive collection of 15,000 instruments from across the world, with 5,000 of them on display.
When visitors enter the museum they are given an audio headset, which will be there music guide throughout the galleries. The exhibits are unique, when the museum was created they didn’t just want the instruments to be on display, they wanted visitors to experience the music. Each exhibit has a flat screen television that shows people playing the instruments and when approached a visitors audio headset begins playing what is seen on the television. Some of the instruments look unimaginably complex, but after seeing them being played visitors can get an idea of how they work.
Downstairs there are four galleries; the Artist Gallery, the Experience Gallery, the Mechanical Music Gallery and the Target Gallery. In the Artist Gallery, visitors walk amongst the instruments played by modern musical legends, some of their most popular pieces are John Lennon’s piano and a collection of Elvis’s costumes and guitars. In the Experience Gallery visitors become the composers, you can take a try at playing the harp or just strum out on a guitar, and it’s the only place in the museum where you can actually touch the instruments. After visitors exhaust themselves playing, they can head over to the neighboring Mechanical Music Gallery where the instruments play themselves. The Target Gallery houses different traveling exhibits that change every four to six months depending on the exhibit.
The Musical Theater hosts musical talent from around the world in almost every genre. The intimate feel of the 300-seat theater is different from others, it was created to support acoustic music and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The MIM also is unique in their conservation work. Everything that comes into the museum is reviewed first in the Conservation Lab, where the conservation team asses what sort of condition the piece is in and what type of work it needs to make it aesthetically pleasing. Through a huge glass window visitors to the museum can watch the conservation team as they work. Currently they are working on a hat from rock legend Alice Cooper, it was the first top hat that he had ever worn and was held together with tape.
Upstairs the five main galleries are broken up by continents and then are further separate inside by countries (with the exception of the United States and Canada gallery, which is broken up by genre. Visitors can experience music from world wide celebrations; even getting a chance to see the costumes that would be worn to go along with the instruments. Currently they are working on a 20% expansion of the museum for current galleries to hold more of their permanent collection.
The MIM works to celebrate different Cultures of the world. They host events on special holidays; most recently they celebrated Bastille, a day of highlighting the French exhibits. They offered French language lessons, created French food for the museums café and there were musical and Baroque dance performances.
The MIM allows visitors to step out of the usual and into the world of someone else. In a display above the stairs, “music is the language of the soul” and through out the entire museum visitors are able to directly experience that.