The Conservation & Research Team - The Museum of Music

It was on 19 December 1995, through Decree N°95-1300 regarding the creation of the Cité de la Musique complex, that the Museum of Music was founded. Built on the premises of the public project, the Museum of Music was entrusted with the stewardship of the national collections that had been hitherto under the responsibility of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique and de Danse (CNSMD, the Paris Conservatory). Under the Decree, the Museum was assigned “an advisory and organizational role in managing the network of public collections in the field of music” and endowed with “among other things, a laboratory for research and for the restoration of instruments”.

The Museum of Music’s modern history began in 1961, when Georges Henri Rivière came up with the idea of a Museum of Music along with Geneviève Thibault, who was the newly-appointed curator of the Paris Conservatory’s Museum of Musical Instruments and who would hold that post until 1973. Upon taking office, Geneviève Thibault ensured that the Museum of Musical Instruments became part of an international circuit thanks to her role as founder – and later Chair – of a very special committee: the International Committee of Museums and Collections of Instruments and Music (known by its French acronym, CIMCIM). She moreover instigated research in the true sense of the word, not only by applying modern analysis and investigative techniques so as to better identify and understand the instruments in the collection, but also by setting up the Program Cooperative Research group within the CNRS for studying “the relationship between instruments’ internal structure and their sound”.

Today the Museum of Music’s Conservation and Research Team combines human and physical sciences and applies them to organology, as well as to the preservation and restoration of musical instruments. Its research activities nourish the study of the material and cultural history of instruments, which are unique artifacts in that they are both works of art and technical objects, as well as being vectors that make musical and artistic expression possible. The Team’s work also helps to further knowledge and ensure protection of the intangible aspect of musical forms of today and yesteryear.

Areas of research include the materials, structures and sound mechanics of the instruments as well as changes over time. The Team’s work also seeks to determine the techniques used in crafting the instruments and the rationale behind those construction choices, thus revealing the expertise employed in any given time and place. These studies can offer guidance as to the appropriate design and implementation of conservation options, especially when it comes to maintaining the instruments in a playable state.