This Art Nouveau building from the year 1899 was originally built for the “Old England” department store. After the store moved out some seventy years later, the building stood empty for a long time and must have been quite an eyesore in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
In recent years the building has been carefully restored, and now houses the “mim” Musical Instrument Museum. This is the newest and largest Musical Instrument Museum that I know of, but there are also some very interesting ones in other European cities such as Paris, Berlin, Stuttgart and Nürnberg.
This museum opened in the year 2000 in the beautifully renovated “Old England” building. On your way in you get a set of infrared headphones, so you can hear the sound of the exhibited musical instruments all over the museum.
Aside from having numerous historical examples of harpsichords and other older keyboard instruments, the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels also includes a workshop to show how harpsichords and clavicins are made today.
In the basement a number of ingenious mechanical instruments are on display, mainly from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, also a wire recorder (precursor of the tape recorder) and an old wind-up phonograph.
Altogether they have seven thousand musical instruments from all over the world, displayed on four floors:
- In the basement they have mechanical instruments, 20th century instruments, a group of bells and a “sound area”
- On the ground floor there are Belgian and European folk instruments as well as non-European instruments.
- On the first floor (= one flight up) the exhibits are arranged in the form of a historical tour from antiquity to the 20th century.
- On the second floor (= two flights up) there is a systematic presentation showing the development of keyboard instruments and stringed instruments in Europe over several centuries.
On the upper floors there are concert halls and a library, and on the top (sixth) floor there is a restaurant with a view out over the city of Brussels. (They call it a “wonderful” view, and of course they are entitled to their opinion.)
Rue Montagne de la Cour 2, B-1000 Bruxelles
50°50’34.01″ North; 4°21’32.05″ East
My photos in the post are from 2007. I revised the text in 2018.