European traditional instruments

Ever heard of a crwth, a wawa, a muchosa, a firlinfeu or a dimplipito? You'll find them all at the mim! And also some 1,400 other folk instruments from all over Europe: from Iceland to the Caucasus, and from Spain to the Ural Mountains. Approximately four hundred of them are on show in the World Traditions gallery.

In the spirit of our first curator Victor-Charles Mahillon, we have an example of just about everything that was ever made to produce a sound, musical or otherwise. So everything from unsightly children's whistles and sophisticated accordions, viols and flutes to horns, tooters and bells.

We are particularly proud of our collections of accordions (approx. 100 examples), drones and zithers (some 60). Half of all these types of instrument were made in Belgium. We also have an exceptional collection of sixty bagpipes, including the only three old Belgian bagpipes still in existence. We also pride ourselves on our charming collection of approximately eighty bird whistles and eighty pottery whistles.

There are instruments from just about every European country. France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Romania and Turkey are particularly well represented with scores of items from each. But since the end of the 1960s the curators of the European folk instruments department have concentrated on Belgian folk instruments with the result that Belgium's share in the collection now totals over three hundred items.

In the World Traditions gallery visitors learn the ABC of European folk instruments, from the A for alboka, a Spanish-Basque double clarinet, to the Z for zurna, the Turkish oboe, through the crwth (Welsh lyre), the dimplipito (Caucasian double drum), the firlinfeu (Lombardian panpipe), the muchosa (North Hainault bagpipes) and the wawa (Mons bullroarer).