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Date: Sat, 01 Apr 2000 10:08:17 +0200
Gotthard Arnold, Master Restorer
Bad Schönborn, Germany
by Hauke Marxsen

g_arnold1a.jpg (Technik Museum Speyer)

In the MMDigest of 23 March 2000 I told about the new museum, the "Wilhelmsbau", part of the Technik Museum in Speyer(Germany). That report is now stored in the MMD Picture Gallery under

Today I am pleased to introduce you to Master Restorer Gotthard Arnold and his team, the restorers of the mechanical music instruments of the Technik Museums at Speyer and Sinsheim. Both museums are located not far away from Heidelberg and are associated. The workshop of Mister Arnold is located between both towns, in the village Bad Schönborn.

Mister Arnold is one of the founders of the GSM, the German Society for Self-playing Musical Instruments (Gesellschaft für Selbstspielende Musikinstrumente e.V.).  We've known each other for quite some years and in that time we have exchanged a lot of parts and items.

g_arnold2a.jpg (12kb) (M. Marxsen)On the 16th of March this year he invited us (my wife Mechthild and me) to his workshop in Bad Schönborn, and then he went with us to the new museum in Speyer, the "Wilhelmsbau".  It was not easy to find him in Bad Schönborn; no indications on the road. An old man, who worked in his garden, showed us the way to the property.

We reached a few old barns with firewood beside them. You could imagine finding a few cows, pigs, hens or sheep inside. But inside it was all very well arranged and clean, with an immense quantity of parts and material (old wood, metal, screws and so on) for repairing instruments. It was a cold day and in the workshop a self made wood stove heated the hall.

g_arnold3a.jpg (M. Marxsen)A nice apprentice girl welcomed us. She was repairing a piano roll. A French apprentice was restoring the wooden parts of a flute clock. We got a good overview about the workshop and the different storerooms.

If you are among a crowd of people you will quickly notice Mister Arnold, because he always has a special cap on his head, mainly hand knitted. This time it was a poodle's cap. Normally he wears a colourful cap like the Muslims in North Africa.

g_arnold4a.jpg (11 kb) (M. Marxsen)Let us look back into the past. Mister Arnold was born in 1937 in Saxon. After WW2 that area was the Communist part of Germany. He learned the joiner's trade and later he changed to building organs.

When he was 20 he escaped to the West, reaching West Germany with a backpack and a bicycle.  After years of building and repairing organs all over Europe a crank organ man knocked at his door and asked him if he could repair his crank organ.

"You are wrong here -- I am a builder of big organs and not of little things like that", Mister Arnold said. The crank organ man replied, "Are you not able to repair a little thing like this?".

g_arnold5a.jpg (M. Marxsen)That was the beginning of a successful restorer career. From small musical boxes up to big dance organs he was able to make them play again. Museums and collectors all over the world are his clients.  A highlight in his life will be the official opening ceremony of the new museum, the "Wilhelmsbau" in Speyer on the 13th of April 2000. It's sad that he isn't interested in the Internet and e-mailing, for he would be a big enrichment for the Mechanical Music Digest.

g_arnold5a.jpg (G. Arnold}But he is active in  passing on his knowledge to young people. Meanwhile Helga Erbacher, a young lady a generation younger than the master, is the junior boss of the team. Her hobby is to dance like a mechanical doll while Mister Arnold is cranking an organ. Many people know her under the nickname "Pierrot".

g_arnold7a.jpg (M. Marxsen)The address of Mister Arnold is

Gotthard Arnold
Fachstätte historische Musikautomaten
76669 Bad Schönborn 1
Phone: +49-7253-4927   Fax: +49-7253-32020

Hauke Marxsen
Sat, 01 Apr 2000 10:08:17 +0200
[Click on the photos for a big image.]

01 April 2000

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