Just returned from a wonderful 2 week vacation in Italy. While in Rome,
I visited the Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali, which Philippe
Rouille had kindly told me about.
Unfortunately, it was a great disappointment. Philippe had mentioned
that the museum's director was a player piano enthusiast, so I had
hopes of seeing & hearing some "really cool stuff." The museum was
located on the second floor of a large old building, and contained a
range of (non-mechanical) instruments from ancient times up to 19th
century. The mechanical music was located in three small rooms, and
consisted of a few cylinder music boxes, some disk-operated organettes,
and half a dozen barrel (monkey) organs, in glass cases. The worst
part... none of them could be played by the visitor, and there was not
even a recording playing of any of them.
The small "catalog" distributed upon entering the museum mentioned
that these three rooms of mechanical music would eventually be part
of a larger exhibit on an upper floor, but from the looks of things,
I wouldn't guess this additional floor would open any time soon -- the
museum had an overall look of neglect to it.
On the way out, I peeked in an open first floor window, into what I
guessed was the director's office. Aside from a desk, it contained a
small pipe organ, and a player grand of some sort...from the appearance
of the box underneath, I guessed it was a foot-pumped grand.
This experience really pointed out to me the need for mechanical music
museums/displays to have *working* instruments if they are to generate
the interest of the public. At the very least, the visitor should be
able to push a button and put on a set of earphones, and listen to a
good recording of each type of instrument. Visitors to my home may take
passing notice of my player piano, organettes, and phonographs, but it's
when I *play* them that I make converts of them all!
PS: Aside from the disappointing museum, the rest of my trip was
great... I even purchased a nice British piano roll in a flea
market in Florence!