Why the Musical Instrument Museum is special

Five years ago, the Musical Instrument Museum opened its doors on a dusty lot in northern Phoenix. The elegantly designed building introduced a concept unique to Arizona: visitors could see, hear, and even manipulate instruments from around the world and throughout history.

Since then, residents and visitors have embraced the museum:

– More than 250,000 visitors come each year.

– In 2012, gallery space was expanded by 20%, bringing the total to 80,000 square feet.

– The museum opened with 10,000 objects in its collection. Today it has 15,000.

– Some 200 concerts are presented each year in the 300-seat hall.

– The Circle of Friends donor program is expanded. He had required a minimum contribution of $250 to receive unlimited entry and other benefits. Now the tier is lowered to $100 to give more people the chance to join.

– TripAdvisor users ranked it the #1 attraction in Phoenix on a list of 200.

The museum will celebrate its 5th anniversary from April 20 with a week of activities. The MIM opened with great fanfare on April 24, 2010.

Why MIM is different

The museum has permanent galleries organized by geography, containing objects from collectors, luthiers and musicians. There’s also the hands-on experience gallery; the Mechanical Music Gallery, which features instruments that play by themselves; and the Artist and Target galleries, which present temporary and special exhibitions.

The Musical Instrument Museum, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this week, has 15,000 music-related objects in its collection, including an acoustic guitar that once belonged to Johnny Cash.

Special exhibits have included “Women Who Rock”. In the Artist Gallery, collections of Taylor Swift, Elvis and Johnny Cash include instruments, costumes, handwritten lyrics, memorabilia, concert posters and sheet music. The museum also has a concert hall, a café serving global cuisine made from local ingredients, educational programs and regular events such as the monthly “Experience” cultural festivals.

There are a few other instrument museums, but they mainly focus on western instruments. Most notable is the Museum of Musical Instruments in Brussels. The University of South Dakota is home to the National Museum of Music; Carlsbad, California has the Museum of Making Music which focuses on the music industry; and the EMP Museum in Seattle is pop culture oriented.

Director General April Salomon has worked at MIM since its inception and was appointed Director last year. She believes that success is based on the specificity of the concept and the richness of the offers.

“It has a lot to do with the experience we provide to customers,” she said. “We’re a real differentiator from other arts institutions in the Valley, and there aren’t many places in Phoenix or in the world where you can hear music and instruments, and see cultures represented from all over the world. countries and territories around the world. It’s so immersive, there’s so much to see and do in one day at MIM that you’re just not going to have another experience like this.”

what people say

Joanna Woronkowicz, an assistant professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, recently co-authored a book called “Building Better Arts Facilities.” She said MIM’s success is remarkable.

“This is a very short time frame for an organization, and the fact that they’ve grown so much, raised enough money, and expanded the facility is really, really impressive,” she said. “In 2010, we were just coming out of the economic recession, so people were starting to give again and it was a fortuitous time. It will be interesting to see how that goes down the line.”

Cora and Holt Davis from Tucson recently visited for the first time. They heard about the museum from friends from out of town.

Visitors view the new Carter Family and Johnny Cash exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale on Friday, April 17, 2015.

“They told us we had to go, there was such variety and we loved it so far,” Cora said. “It’s really one of a kind. We love watching little kids dance, and it also brings out the kids in the adults.”

Richard Burns, a retired doctor, has been a guide at the museum since 2010 and has donated and facilitated the donation of a number of instruments. He didn’t know what to expect at first.

“When it opened, I was like, ‘How boring, musical instruments on the wall,'” Burns said. “Then I visited, and half an hour was enough for me to see that it is incredibly beautiful and the staff are really welcoming. I started upstairs and spent three hours in Africa at listen to music. As soon as I could, I put my name on the list of volunteers.”

Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, DC, has visited the MIM twice.

“I’ve been to many museums, and this one is very unique and engaging,” Bell said. “It’s a very carefully thought out museum, which creates a memorable experience with the visitor. The music is universal, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it’s the result of many influences. You really get a sense of ‘universality when going there.’

Salomon said good old word of mouth has been key to MIM’s success.

“When we opened our doors, people didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “Even though we describe it as clearly as possible, people won’t understand it until they see it for themselves. Word of mouth has been a big part of our success, and there’s no better approval than that.”

The next 5 years

Various drums from the Beyond the Beat: Drums of the World exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale on Friday, April 17, 2015.

Woronkowicz said it was easy for museums to become optimistic from the start.

“With new organizations, you tend to see revenue and attendance increase in the first few years after opening because people are coming for the first time, and it’s new and exciting,” she said. declared.

Solomon said staff plan to bring people back. The museum will host its first children’s summer camp this year. The second annual MIMFest World Music Festival will take place in November. Other special exhibitions are in preparation.

“That’s how you keep it fresh and put on temporary and traveling exhibits to grab attention,” Bell said. “What are they doing to keep people coming back, which is a challenge that all museums face. Luckily MIM has so much material to work with.”

Musical Instrument Museum

The museum is celebrating its fifth anniversary all week. There will be performances, gallery talks and thematic menus in the café. The Experience MIM festival takes place from 9 am to 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday. The full schedule is on the museum’s website.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Address: 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix.

Admission: $20, $15 for ages 13-19, $10 for ages 4-12, free for ages 3 and under. “Beyond the Beat” costs an additional $7 with museum admission, or $10 for the exhibit only.

Details: 480-478-6000, mim.org.

MIM in figures

– Number of concerts per year: About 200.

– Square feet: 200,000 square feet.

– Number of instruments on display: Around 6,500.

– Number of instruments in the collection: 15,581.

– Number of seats at the MIM Music Theater: 300.

– Number of displays: 370.

– Number of video clips in galleries: 1,136.

– Total duration of video clips: 2 hours, 6 minutes, 56 seconds.

– Number of video monitors: 326.

– Number of employees: 83 full-time and 15 part-time. 499 volunteers.

– Number of students having carried out field trips to the MIM: 140,000.

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