Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Our First Visit to the Musical Instrument Museum

This summer, my slowly improving leg health meant that Denis and I got out and about more. But when it's well over 100°F. in the shade, we opted for checking out indoor venues. A few weeks ago, we acted on a recommendation given to me by author Jenn McKinlay many moons ago and visited the Musical Instrument Museum.

What a fabulous place!

Denis and I spent so much time there and took so many photos that it's taken me a while to sort through everything. Today's post will give you an overview of the museum's purpose as well as a look at some of the exhibits that you will find on the first floor. As much time as we spent on the first floor, we really lost our minds of the second floor, and that's going to take more than one future post to give you an idea of what this incredible place is like. Let's get started!


From the museum website. I fell in love with the architecture and the landscaping, both perfectly suited to the surrounding desert.

From the website: "MIM [Musical Instrument Museum] began with a vision to create a musical instrument museum that would be truly global. Realizing most musical museums featured historic, primarily Western classical instruments, MIM’s founder Bob Ulrich (then CEO of Target Corporation) was inspired to develop a new kind of museum that would focus on the kind of instruments played every day by people worldwide.

The Musical Instrument Museum is one of the top tourist destinations in the Phoenix metro area and is rated among the top fifteen museums in the country. Why it took so long for Denis and I to visit, I will never know.

MIM is a Phoenix Point of Pride.

The museum is filled with quiet spots looking out at nature. This one also looks out on the outside eating area next to the cafe.

An Electraglide guitar made in the Highlands of Scotland. Not all of the instruments are as "normal" looking as this one, however.

I'm still trying to imagine a pigeon that would put up with having this on its tail.

A lute made from an armadillo shell?!?

A pair of setoes (arched harps) from the Ngbaka people in the Ubangi River Region in Africa. Each instrument's body and sound in this male and female pair stand as metaphors for human/spiritual embodiment and "voice."

One of the museum's conservation areas.

The entrance to the Artist Gallery. I loved the different types of marble used in the floor.

Have you ever heard John Denver sing "This Old Guitar"? This is the guitar.

The "Plum Blossom" robe worn by Rockmore at the 1994 New York Film Festival screening of Steven M. Martin's film "Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey."

I loved the detail on the robe and was thrilled to find out that the museum held more than musical instruments. You know me and textiles...

Just the beginning of a large exhibit on Elvis. Natch!

Another cool and quiet spot for a little contemplation.

A large kempul (gong) from Indonesia.

There is a large Experience Gallery on the first floor filled with all sorts of musical instruments that you can play. I actually checked something off my bucket list here. I've always wanted to bang a gong, and I gave this kempul a couple of good whacks. One: that beater (mallet) is a lot heavier than I expected. Two: I want one here at Casa Kittling... ooooh, Denis!

The museum shop is also on the first floor, and it's filled with goodies. I bought two things on this, our first visit.


The pack of Dia de los Muertos-themed playing cards will go on my offrenda at the end of the month. Growing up, my mother and I would go to my grandparents' house for Saturday dinner and an hour or two of playing various card games before adjourning to watch my grampa's favorite, "The Lawrence Welk Show."

The basket is made from telephone wire. It all started as a recycling project in South Africa but has now turned into a thriving cottage industry for talented Zulu weavers living in rural areas. How thriving? Over 700 families are supported by weaving these baskets. I know I'll be getting more. I love them!


A pair of atingtings (slit drums) from Vanuatu outside the museum.

If you liked the first floor, you're going to love the second floor! I hope you'll be joining me on my next visit to the Musical Instrument Museum.


  1. Wow, Cathy, what an incredible place! I love music, so that alone would have been enough to get me to visit. But such breadth and variety! Ravi Shankar, Pablo Casals, John Denver, Elvis Presley... it's amazing! And it's great to see all of those fascinating instruments. I think I could easily lose myself there...

  2. What a great museum that turns out to be. I don't think I would have really been attracted to this kind of museum normally, but now having seen your great pictures, I understand what's there and would love to visit it someday. (I do have to wonder how a pigeon could fly with that whistle thingy attached to its tail feathers. It must be really light.)

    1. And you haven't even seen the second floor yet. :-)

  3. Michael and I visited it after Shoot the Bastards came out and we were at Poisoned Pen. It is one of my favourite museums anywhere. I can't wait to go back.

    1. I hope you do come back. Hopefully, this time my health will allow me to meet you, since it didn't for Shoot the Bastards. I can still get upset over missing you two that time.

  4. That's fantastic! I'm already looking forward to learning about the 2nd floor.

    1. I'm having an extremely difficult time weeding through photos!

  5. What a fascinating place to visit! That basket made of telephone wire is amazing and adorable.

    1. And extremely sturdy. I definitely want at least one larger one.

  6. Wow, I'm amazed at some of these instruments! Those slit drums outside are marvelous!

  7. It's fantastic. Lucky you live nearby and now you can go there more often.
    The instrumcnets that are unusual to us are traditional to the people who live where they are made.
    Again, this is about people making art and music wherever they are and with whatever materials they have to work with.

    In the movie, "The Story of the Weeping Camel," set in Mongolia, when a mama camel won't feed her baby, the children in the owner's family ride off on a camel to a village to find an elderly resident.

    Ne comes and sings to the camel accompanies by someone playing an instrument I've never seen before. I don't know its name. Then I looked up Mongolia and China and music instruments, and I saw photos of several I'd never seen before.

    Amazing what people can craft for various uses and for art and music.

    1. One of the good things about this museum is that they show these traditional instruments that many of us have never heard of actually being played.

  8. That is "He comes and sings to the camel accompanied ..."

  9. The chanting and music affected the mother camel in some way, and she then accepted her baby.

  10. I hope you are able to see the movie. It is beautiful and very poignant. When the music and chanting reach the camel, she does weep. It's amazing.
    Somehow the music and chant affect her hormonally or chemically in some way. It's an age-old custom in that region.

  11. And to make matters even more sweet, the baby camel is a rare white one.

  12. Hope you get to see this movie. It is beautifully and the family living in the yurt is so kind and loving to the camels.


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