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History of the MIM

Since 11 January 1992 the Musical Instruments Museum, today known as MIM, has been part of the Royal Museums of Art and History as Department IV. By royal decree, the State has recognised the scientific character of its activities and provided it with two sections: firstly, the early music section and secondly, the section of modern music (19th and 20th centuries), and popular and traditional music. But the original creation of the Brussels Musical Instruments Museum dates from 1 February 1877, when it was attached to the Brussels Royal Music Conservatory with the didactic purpose of showing early instruments to the students.

Creation of the Brussels Musical Instruments Museum

At the very beginning of the Brussels Musical Instruments Museum's creation two collections of instruments were joined together. One belonged to the celebrated Belgian musicologist François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871), was bought by the Belgian government in 1872 and put on deposit in the Conservatory where Fétis was the first director. The other was offered to King Leopold II in 1876 by the Rajah Sourindro Mohun Tagore (1840-1914) and comprises about a hundred Indian instruments.

Fétis & Tagore
Fétis & Tagore

Victor-Charles Mahillon

With these two original collections, the MIM was already remarkably rich for its time. But its first curator, Victor-Charles Mahillon (1841-1924) was considerably to augment its collections, thus placing it among the finest in the world.

Beginning in 1877, Mahillon created a restoration workshop in the mim where he employed and trained a worker, Franz de Vestibule, to restore damaged articles, and also to make copies of instruments from other public collections of which no original examples existed in Brussels.

In addition, between 1880 and 1922 Mahillon described the collections of the...

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Mahillon
Victor-Charles Mahillon

After Mahillon's death...

The growth of the collection slowed sharply after Mahillon's death in 1924. His successor, Ernest Closson (1870-1950) was nonetheless motivated by the same scientific curiosity regarding musical instruments. He edited several articles on Belgian makers for the National Biography and devoted a long monograph to "La facture des instruments de musique en Belgique" which appeared on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition held at Brussels in 1935. Besides organological information, statistics show the volume of Belgian instrument exports in the mid-19th century and highlight (alas!) the reversal...

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Roger Bragard
Roger Bragard