Author Archives: srichardson

New video on SCH demolition and building progress

Latest time lapse video from Malcolm Brown from the Digital Imaging Unit at the Centre for Research Collections captures the progress of works at St Cecilia’s Hall.

For those who know our location, the building site is tight, so Malcolm has had to be creative in capturing his videos and images. Malcolm has persevered through hours of standing on the pavement of Niddry Street and South Bridge as well as eating countless roasted chicken dinners at Zuhus restaurant in order to capitalise on various views of our building.

Look for more videos to come of the construction of the new entrance to St Cecilia’s Hall.

Sound as a Snake: conservation techniques for unusual materials


One of the MIMEd instruments that went under conservation treatment this month by

Sanxian prior to conservation

Sanxian prior to conservation

conservator Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet is a Chinese sanxian (MIMEd 437). The instrument, played both as a solo or orchestral instrument in Chinese classical music, is a plucked instrument with three strings. This sanxian was made in the mid-nineteenth century and was collected by John Donaldson, the founder of the Music Classroom Museum of Edinburgh University, and has been part of the University’s collection since before 1872.

An interesting element of sanxian construction is that the front and back of the body are made of snake skin – often that of a python. Although visually stunning, this material is susceptible to damage. Unfortunately changes in relative humidity over the years has caused the skin of the back and front of our sanxian to stretch resulting in tears.



Front 1

Tear in front of instrument body

Torn back section

Torn back section










To treat this instrument Jonathan used a technique he recently learned from a workshop given by Caroline Scharfenberg, a rare book conservator, which took place at the conservation studio of the Main Library. The technique is known as Japanese paper toning and it involves the use of Japanese paper to reinforce torn materials. The paper is then coloured using natural pigments to match the original material resulting in an inconspicuous repair. In the case of the sanxian Jonathan reinforced the tears in the snake skin, applying Japanese paper to the inside of the instrument.  He then toned and texturized the paper to match that of the snake skin.

Front 2

Front with Japanese paper before toning

Front 3

Front with toned paper









Back with Japanese paper

Back with Japanese paper before toning

Back with toned paper

Back with toned paper









Instrument ready for display

Instrument ready for display



Although the tears are still visible, this treatment has made the damage less noticeable and more stable. Now the instrument is ready for display in the redeveloped St Cecilia’s Hall.


Concert to raise money for St Cecilia’s Hall Redevelopment

Bacchus is a pow’r divine…! is a fundraising concert starring Andrew Kennedy, Winner of the Song Prize in BBC Cardiff Singer of the World (2005), which promotes the University of Edinburgh’s £6.5m vision to restore, renovate & make accessible St Cecilia’s Hall, Scotland’s oldest concert hall, with its world famous collection of musical instruments.  

Click HERE for tickets.  

kennedy concert

MIMEd abroad! Two members of the MIMEd staff travel to Boston to spread the news about the SCH redevelopment.


In June, Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet and Sarah Deters travelled to Boston to attend the 44th Annual Meeting of the American Musical Instrument Society (AMIS) Conference, hosted by the musical instrument department of the Museum of Fine Arts. AMIS is one of the most important conferences in the field of organology and the annual conference brings together researchers, museum professionals, and collectors from across the world to gather and discuss the latest advancements and discoveries in organology.


Professor Donaldson throws a party when he is appointed the Chair of Music.

Professor Donaldson throws a party when he is appointed the Chair of Music.

At the conference Sarah presented a paper titled: Professor, Founder… and Scoundrel? Exploring the founding collection of Musical Instrument Museums Edinburgh. The paper explored the life and work of John Donaldson, who established the musical instrument collection of the University of Edinburgh in the 1840s and was responsible for the building of the Reid Concert Hall.


Highlights of scholarship from this year’s meeting included an entire session devoted to ancient Greek auloi: including discussions of their construction, use, historical context, and musical use; as well as a paper on Laurent crystal flutes (of which we have two) and how to determine their glass structure using UV light.

Laurent flutes

Laurent flutes fluorescing different colours depending on their glass composition.

In addition to providing an opportunity for conference attendees to hear the latest research on musical instruments, the conference also included trips to nearby instrument factories and private instrument collections. The MIMEd team visited Zildjian, a company that has been making cymbals since 1623, and Powell Flutes, a high-end flute manufacturer.

Looking at flute serial number 1 at Powell flutes.

Looking at flute serial number 1 at Powell flutes.

Cymbal performance room of the Zildjian factory

Cymbal performance room of the Zildjian factory














Attending conferences such as this provide an important networking opportunity for the staff of MIME, as well as being an outlet to introduce conference attendees to our collections and redevelopment project.  Throughout the conference Jonathan and Sarah were able to discuss the plans for SCH and invite members of AMIS to visit Edinburgh once we reopen in 2016.


The transformation of Scotland’s oldest purpose built concert hall into a centre of excellence for the study, display and enjoyment of historic musical instruments has taken a major step forward with a significant funding award.

The St Cecilia’s Hall Redevelopment Project has been awarded £823,500 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The award is a key part of the University’s £6.5 million vision to restore, renovate and make accessible Scotland’s oldest concert hall and its world class collection of historic musical instruments.

The University is a leader in musical instrument research and St Cecilia’s Hall is home to one of the most important historic musical instrument collections anywhere in the world. St Cecilia’s Hall is a place where visitors can discover forgotten sounds and musical styles, learn about beautiful instruments and find out about the cultures of the people who created and played them.

The HLF award will fund new ways for audiences to enjoy and experience the instruments. There will be live demonstrations, innovative use of sound and recordings, song-writing projects, exhibitions about instruments and their owners, resources for schools, ‘brown bag’ concerts and much more.

The redeveloped Hall will combine over 1,000 world-class objects, research and teaching, sounds and stories; all set within the interiors of a refurbished and extended building. The plans, being developed by architects Page \ Park, will reinstate the 18th century character of the venue, restoring the original historic frontage and repairing the external stonework. A new entrance with a double-height feature door will be highly visible from the Royal Mile. The oval Concert Hall at the heart of the building will be completely restored and the original acoustic reinstated.

Jacky MacBeath, Head of Museums and Deputy Head of Centre for Research Collections, said:

“We are absolutely thrilled with this award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, it’s a huge boost to the project which focusses on revealing St Cecilia’s Hall as one of the Old Town’s most important historic places, transforming access to this special building and its unique collections of international significance”.


New voices join the St Cecilia’s Hall fundraising canon!

A fundraising update by Leisa Thomas, Development Officer

Fundraising continues to go from strength to strength and we are delighted to announce three major grants from Scottish Trusts that have helped us reach the halfway mark in our fundraising endeavours. Arts philanthropists, the Dunard Fund, and Scottish stalwarts, the Wolfson Foundation, along with city locals, Edinburgh World Heritage, have each committed significant grants in support of St Cecilia’s Hall. The financial backing of these charitable bodies lends strength to the importance of our vision for Scotland’s oldest concert hall and what it means for our country’s musical heritage. We would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has supported the project and helped us attain this fantastic milestone!

Building for a New Audience

A post by Sarah Deters, Audience Development Assistant, MIMED

Why is the St Cecilia’s Hall Redevelopment project so important to Musical Instrument Museums Edinburgh (MIMEd)?  There are a number of reasons. Through the redevelopment, we will be able to preserve and conserve St Cecilia’s Hall, the oldest concert hall in Scotland. By expanding the building, we will finally be able to bring together our musical instrument collections into one museum, displaying our objects in new galleries and allowing us to show the history of musical instruments under one roof. And with this improved St Cecilia’s, we can engage and embrace a new audience by expanding our opening hours, improving our facilities, providing exciting public programming, and interpreting our museum objects with a fresh perspective.

The opportunity to create an engaging space for our visitors is incredibly exciting for me as the Ap36 final external image2udience Development Assistant. Throughout the past year, I, along with the SCH Redevelopment Group and Jura Consultants, have been working hard on developing a robust Activity Plan.  This plan outlines all of the programmes, relationships, and engagement opportunities that will occur at St Cecilia’s Hall.  The plan has already been set in motion and will continue to gather speed throughout the redevelopment process.  It is a great time to be involved with Musical Instrument Museums Edinburgh and I look forward to continuing to update everyone on the project.