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An instrument from the RCM Museum's collection

RCM Museum launches new digital catalogue

Wednesday 28 June 2017

The Royal College of Music Museum has launched a brand new digital catalogue, opening up one of the richest collections of music-related objects in the UK and Europe to an online audience.

This dynamic new resource, which launches with 1,600 items, comprises musical instruments, paintings, photographs, engravings, sculptures, and various items of ephemera and memorabilia. An invaluable tool for RCM students, professors, researchers and music lovers, each item features a high-quality image and detailed description alongside information about makers, artists, musicians, composers and the history of the College.

RCM Museum Curator Gabriele Rossi Rognoni says ‘The RCM collections offer a rich and stimulating insight into musical life in London, Europe and the rest of the world covering more than five centuries. This catalogue will give access for the first time to thousands of objects that currently lie unknown in our archives and offer a precious resource to all music lovers.

Alongside renowned items such as world-famous portraits of Joseph Haydn and Farinelli, the digital catalogue makes available many pieces which were not previously on display, including all of the Museum’s non-western instruments and a number of recent acquisitions. Most notably visitors can discover four English bass viols donated by Jane Kessler, which were restored by her late husband Dietrich Kessler.


New audio and visual material offers the unique opportunity to hear rare historical instruments being played. In the first video launching with the catalogue, Professor Terence Charlston plays a replica of the RCM Museum’s clavicytherium, the earliest known stringed keyboard instrument in the world (c 1480).


A team of volunteers are working to digitise the RCM Museum’s entire collection, which comprises in excess of 25,000 items. This work will continue throughout the redevelopment of the RCM Museum building, which is currently closed to visitors, and is part of the College’s More Music: Reimagining the Royal College of Music project.

Several innovative projects in recent years have ensured that these music-related objects are accessible to everyone. The RCM was the first music conservatoire to partner with the Google Cultural Institute, which has resulted in a range of interactive digital exhibitions on the Google Arts & Culture platform. Collaborative projects such as MINIM-UK and MIMO provide further access, helping to support teaching and research, and conserve the collection for generations to come.