A Day at the MIM in Scottsdale

By local contributor
Christina Barrueta

If you speak to anyone who has visited the Musical Instrument Museum, you’ll find a common refrain - “it’s more amazing than I expected,” “it’s the best museum I’ve ever visited” – and I couldn’t agree more. Spend a day at the MIM and see just what we mean.

The MIM is the world’s largest global musical instrument museum with a collection of approximately 16,000 instruments and music memorabilia from nearly 200 countries and territories housed in a 200,000 square foot building. More than 48,000 of those instruments and objects are displayed on two floors, covering 80,000 square feet, so plan to spend a day wandering the many galleries, with a leisurely break for lunch at the on-site restaurant.

At the MIM, guests are immersed in a sound-and-sight experience using state-of-the-art audio and video equipment. Pay for your ticket and slip on the wireless GuidePort headphones you receive. These are integral to the museum experience as they activate video content at exhibits, allowing you to watch as instruments are being created, played in a variety of settings or used in their cultural context.

Organ

Begin your tour on the first floor, taking note of the majestic 1859 Thomas Robjohn pipe organ, the only one of its kind in existence. You might start in the Experience Gallery for a hands-on education or perhaps the Conservation Lab where instruments are restored. The Target Gallery hosts traveling engagements such as the current “Congo Masks and Music: Masterpieces from Central Africa,” which features more than 150 masks, musical instruments and costumes displayed alongside rare photos and videos of masquerade celebrations. In the Artist Gallery you’ll find displays and concert clips from Carlos Santana to Johnny Cash, memorabilia such as the telegram Elvis Presley sent to the Beatles wishing them well on their Ed Sullivan appearance, and musical treasures like Aretha Franklin’s 1922 Steinway piano donated by the artist herself.

Artist Gallery

By now, a couple of hours have passed and you’ve probably worked up an appetite. Stop by Café Allegro for a relaxing lunch break. The sunny patio is an especially nice spot to enjoy Scottsdale’s beautiful weather as you savor the café’s farm-fresh, globally inspired cuisine.                                                                               

When you’re rested and refreshed, head to the second floor to roam the Geographic Galleries divided into Africa and Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America, and the United States and Canada. You’ll first notice the rare 1886 Model C Steinway piano located outside the Europe gallery. Before being restored, it resided in the elegant parlor of a Minnesota home for over a century.

Paris Piano

In the Europe gallery, explore regions from Latvia and Lithuania to Montenegro and Macedonia. Be sure to admire the magnificent gilt bronze Erard grand piano which was awarded “Grand Prix” at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris.

Pearl Works

Next door in the United States and Canada gallery, genres range from folk revival to rock and roll, and instruments cover Steinway pianos to the world’s largest playable sousaphone. At the Pearl Works exhibit, inlay artisans have created stunning designs such as the “Dragon 2002” electric guitar covered in mother of pearl, gold, turquoise and abalone shell.

Trininad

Across the hall, enter the Latin America gallery with displays educating museumgoers on instruments from the panpipes of the Andes to the steelpans of Trinidad. Don’t miss the Recycled Orchestra exhibit where youth orchestra students from Paraguay who tour the world have created instruments from objects found in landfills, such as a saxophone constructed from a water pipe, bottle caps, and spoons.

Asian Gallery

In the Asia and Oceania Gallery, explore the regions of east, south, southeast and central Asia to learn about instruments such as the shell trumpets of Polynesia and the Buddhist temple drums of Tibet. Spend some time at a replica of Indonesian workshop for a lesson in gong-making or watch musicians play the rababs of Pakistan.

End your global tour in The Africa and Middle East Gallery, which displays instruments and artifacts from the sub-Saharan, North African, and Middle Eastern regions. It’s a fascinating tour of the biblical shofar or ram’s horn trumpets of Israel, the talking drums of Nigeria, and the unique mbira, or thumb pianos, of Zimbabwe.

Experience the MIM for yourself – make a date, meet some friends, or bring the family to make your own music and memories