The Cincinnati Art Museum stewards a collection of over eight hundred musical instruments that span four centuries and represent over thirty musical cultures on four continents. Because of its global scope, this collection is one of the most important of its kind in the world. The artists who created these instruments designed, crafted, and embellished them to appear as intriguing and beautiful as the sounds they were intended to produce.
The museum acquired its first musical instrument in 1888. A large percentage of our collection was a gift from Cincinnatian William Howard Doane. Doane (1832–1915) was a lover of music, a collector, and an amateur composer. He began to loan works from his collection to the museum for display in 1887. He gifted instruments to the museum in three waves: first, in 1914; in 1919, following his death; and as a bequest from his daughter, Marguerite T. Doane, in 1955.
Most of this collection is currently off view. The museum will continue to work to display musical instruments throughout our permanent collection galleries in the future.