After a two-year-long campaign of renovation and reinterpretation, many of The Met's iconic instruments—including the world's oldest surviving piano, Ming dynasty cloisonné trumpets, pre-Columbian drums, and Andrés Segovia's guitar—can now be seen and heard in the galleries.
The Art of Music through Time gallery (gallery 684) is organized chronologically to illustrate that people worldwide have simultaneously created extraordinary music and instruments for millennia. This global perspective enables us to identify underlying commonalities in the creation and function of the instruments encountered here. The use of music and instruments to express status, identity, and spirituality, as well as the impact of trade, changing tastes, availability of materials, and emerging technologies are shared elements that span the sweep of time and geography.
Although primarily intended to be heard, instruments also function as powerful vehicles of visual expression and are often prized as works of art in their own right. As such, their appearance frequently reflects contemporary style, and the production techniques and materials used to make them are shared with other art forms. The gallery is punctuated throughout with related objects and paintings that illustrate the universal presence of music and instruments in art and society.
Watch additional videos of The Met's instruments in use on MetMedia.
The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History tells the story of art and global culture through the Museum's collection. Read an assortment of thematic essays richly illustrated by our instruments.
Curators from the Department of Musical Instruments discuss works in the The Met collection.
"String Theory" by Jayson Kerr Dobney
"Phenomenon" by Bradley Strauchen-Scherer
"Gratitude" by J. Kenneth Moore