The collections of Musical Instrument Museums of Edinburgh (MIMEd) comprise an extensive array of musical instruments from very different periods, geographical regions, and social contexts. Contrary to some of the comparable collections in the world, MIMEd maintains a significant portion of the instruments in playable condition. This provides an invaluable resource for musicians, researchers, and the general public to better understand and appreciate the music played on historical instruments, nonetheless, this involves a great responsibility, and a significant work load to keep the instruments in optimal conditions.
The preservation of such a large and diverse collection involves many challenges: from the understanding and knowledge of numerous materials and their properties; techniques of instrument manufacture through history; treatments to better protect the objects of the collection; to the history of music, musical instruments, and art history.
Previous to my appointment as the MIMEd Conservator, I trained as a musical instrument maker and conservator, as well as a musician. I completed conservation internships and fellowships in distinguished institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museo degli Strumenti Musicali in Milan, and the National Music Museum in South Dakota, where I worked as the Conservation Research Assistant. Currently I am working on a PhD in Organology at the University of Edinburgh.
As the MIMEd Conservator my responsibilities include the preservation, conservation, and maintenance of all the objects in the collection. Since undertaking the conservation of the collection, I have had numerous challenging and diverse projects, from cleaning and removing tarnish from trumpets and trombones, getting bagpipes ready for display, to major treatments of a Ruckers harpsichord made in 1609, and a severely damaged mandolin made in 1775.
At present the main focus of my work is directly linked to the Saint Cecilia’s Hall Redevelopment Project. The new displays and layout of the museum will exhibit several hundred objects of MIMEd’s collections, and all of them need to be ready to be displayed for the re-opening of the museum in September 2016. Whilst the museum is closed to the public, I have undertaken the gargantuan task of treating every single object to be displayed: anything from dusting, cleaning, and changing strings, to full treatments that can involve several weeks of delicate and intensive work. To achieve this I have been working with volunteers and interns who can help to carry out those simple but time-consuming tasks, whilst learning and building up their curricula. By the time Saint Cecilia’s Hall re-opens its doors to the public, the instruments will reflect all this work by looking as good as they deserve.
To be the conservator of such an important collection is a great responsibility, St Cecilia’s Hall and MIMEd have an extensive common history, and exciting changes will take place in the near future with the redevelopment plan. To form part of the staff team of this great institution is both an honour and a pleasure, and I am looking forward to the many projects yet to come.
Post by Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet, MIMEd Conservator