As a museum of the decorative arts, the V&A acquired its musical instruments and has displayed them as works of art rather than to tell the history of music. This is the context in which they are currently shown in the Furniture Gallery, British Galleries and the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries. In line with this longstanding approach, further instruments will be displayed in the new Europe 1600-1800 Galleries when they open in 2015.
Gallery 40a, which previously housed musical instruments, closed to the public on 22 February 2010 as part of the V&A’s continuing programme of gallery renewal. The Museum has since refurbished the area as part of the programme for enhancing its displays of fashion and the history of dress.
The V&A made significant loans to the Horniman Museum which has a nationally designated collection of musical instruments.
The V&A also expects to lend to a number of other British institutions. In the interim, the musical instrument collection will be accessible by appointment as part of the Museum's Study Collections at Blythe House , Kensington Olympia.
Music has played a key part in many of the V&A’s exhibitions and permanent displays. The Listening Gallery was a collaborative project between the Royal College of Music and the V&A in 2008-2010. Stemming from research in music, art, design, and technology, the project connected objects in the V&A's collections with music that shares their rich and distinctive pasts.
The Musical Instrument Catalogue
You can download the V&A's Musical Instrument Catalogue here. The Catalogue has been divided into separate sections to enable quicker downloading.