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The power of music on display

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VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) – After five years of extensive renovations, the National Music Museum in Vermillion has finally re-opened seven of its permanent galleries in the original Carnegie Library building.

With its large, world-renowned collection of instruments, the museum now has a new focus that goes beyond just guitars and flutes in display cases.

From the instruments you might have learned to play in the high school band and the artists you hear on the radio — to the way we live our everyday lives, music plays a big role. And now the National Music Museum in Vermillion wants to highlight music’s importance for everyone.

“We really wanted to think about how to make the collection really relevant and accessible to people who didn’t know a lot about musical instruments. So we thought about how do we help them appreciate that, and we can do that through themes of connectivity, culture, creativity,” AJ Goehle, CEO of Luci Creative, said.

Five years ago, work began to remodel the National Music Museum with the help of the Chicago-based design firm Luci Creative. That project included the opening of the Lillibridge Wing with a rotating gallery in 2021. Now, phase one of the remodel for the permanent exhibits is complete.

“If they knew about us in the previous version of the museum, forget about that. This is completely different,” Dwight Vaught, Director of the National Music Museum said.

In the past, the museum was mostly just display cases with instruments in them. Scott Lawrence, the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the museum, says it was a place for scholars.

“People that understood instruments, what they did. And there would be some small definitions of what it was or what the era was,” Lawrence said

But now it’s for everyone.

“Families come in, have a great experience because it’s all laid out with the explanations of how music works and fits in our lives,” Lawrence said.

“This framework really brought to life the way that anybody off the street, and I really mean anyone, could come in and find an access point. Whether it was identification with the science of sound or immigrant stories, culture, travel from place to place and time to time,” Michael Suing, deputy director of collections at the NMM, said.

The new galleries also offer a variety of interactive experiences, like being able to try your hand at the Indonesian gamelan.

And over in the American guitars exhibit, you can time travel with music from eras ranging from pre-1925 to post-1975. You might even find a tune you’re familiar with.

“So you’ll see as you go through the galleries, there are moments where you can actually hear the context of what the instruments sound like and even some music that might be relevant or you remember from a moment in history or a memory you might have too,” Goehle said.

The opening of these galleries also falls on the museum’s 50th anniversary year.
Arne B. Larson founded the museum in 1973 with his collection of over two thousand instruments.

“Then his son Andre took over and began building an amassing a collection like none other in the world. So the last thing before Andre was done here at the museum, he just said, ‘Scott, bring the museum alive.’ And we really feel that we’ve lived out what he wanted us to do,” Lawrence said.

A collection of more than fifteen thousand instruments now coming to life and reminding each museum visitor of the power of their music.

“What I want anybody who comes to the National Music Museum to leave with is that music is theirs. This place, the stories that are here, they’re ours. Shared. And the story of people and music around the world is universal,” Michael Suing said.

Phase two of the National Music Museum redesign will include the galleries in the upstairs portion of the original Carnegie Building. The hope is for those to be ready sometime next year.



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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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