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MMD > Archives > March 2017 > 2017.03.06 > 01Prev  Next

Dispersing a Mechanical Music Collection
By Nancy Fratti

Giving instruments (or anything) to any museum does not ensure
your items will be seen or appreciated by anyone.  In the past it
was vogue to donate items to museums because you could get a tax
write-off for it and presumably the museum might display your items
(not necessarily play them) sometime.

The sad truth is that the museums are always strapped for money
and most donations go into storage for a specified period of time.
If the items are not acquisitioned into their inventory after that
time (usually two years), they go to auction and the museum gets the
proceeds.  The items are hardly ever in an exhibit and if they do
are usually more "decorative" and don't get played.

There is no perfect solution, unfortunately.  If you have friends who
enjoy your pieces, consider selling or giving one or a few items to them.
Their age doesn't matter -- their appreciation does!

Auctions are an "iffy" situation; sometimes they bring good money for
items, sometimes they don't.  The auctioneers get their percentage
either way.  I've found that having a dealer sell your items for you is
one way of getting a decent price for your machine _and_ knowing it is
going to another appreciative collector.  Obviously, it can sometimes
take a bit of time to sell some pieces (especially the more common
ones) but eventually they find a loving home!

Oh, someone commented about regretting items going overseas.  Remember
where a lot of these pieces came from?  Overseas!  Many were targeted
to the growing market in America, but rich Americans went to Europe in
the late 1800s and early 1900s and brought back innumerable container
loads of antiques from Europe, China, etc.  It broadened the scope of
interest in such items and helped spread knowledge of different
technologies all over the world.

If instruments leave the U.S.A. and go to an appreciative home, does it
matter where that home is?  As an example, in the 1980-90s the Japanese
came over here when their stock market surged and gave the antiques
world the shot in the arm that it needed.  They bought not only
mechanical music, but fine glassware, cars, paintings and whatever
interested them.  They shared them with their friends who also got

In the case of mechanical music, there are now _thirty_ mechanical
music museums in Japan!  These museums have active programs of concerts
of the machines and do play the them as people come in on tour.
Because of them, tourists and native Japanese people are exposed to
mechanical music like never before.  Way to go, Japan!

Nancy Fratti -- Nancy Fratti Music Boxes
Canastota, New York, USA 

(Message sent Mon 6 Mar 2017, 20:42:32 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Collection, Dispersing, Mechanical, Music

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