VERMILLION, S.D. – After three years of being closed to the public, the National Music Museum last year reopened a portion of the newly-remodeled space.
The museum closed in 2018 to undergo a $9.5 million remodeling project that included adding a new wing to the building and updating the exhibit halls.
The museum, located on the campus of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, boasts 15,000 instruments, including some of the most historically significant musical instruments in existence. Founded in 1973, the National Music Museum Inc. is a non-profit entity in partnership with USD.
In March 2018, the museum was approved to add approximately 16,000 square feet (two floors plus an underground level) to the existing Carnegie building. Funding for the building project was raised by the Museum’s Board, with up to $1.5 million of that amount covered by USD for upgrades to HVAC and facilities infrastructure.
Last Sept. 24, an opening ceremony was held for the new Lillibridge Wing. The addition holds approximately 4,600 square feet of new exhibit space, a museum store, the Janet L. Wanzeck Performance Hall, the Groves Gallery for Special Exhibitions and the Wohlenberg Administrative Suite.
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Michael Suing, the then-museum interim director, said the special exhibition room gives the museum a place to display various collections that are in storage and take loans from other institutions.
The space was designed to be flexible, a curtain wall on one side that can open to create a large space for performances and gatherings.
Suing said the space gives the museum a place to experiment and be playful. Before, when the museum would showcase the various collections, they weren’t able to tell the stories in an effective way and the new space allows that.
An exhibit called “Gamelan! A Way of Life” was set to open on March 25 and run through the summer. It will feature special workshops for the public to learn to play the Indonesian percussive instruments.
The performance hall is a small and intimate space.
Suing said the staff wanted to be intentional in the way space was used. All of the chairs in the performance hall can be moved, combined with the curtain wall dividing the hall from the special exhibitions gallery, larger functions can be hosted.
The second floor of the addition is the administrative offices, complete with a photography studio and conservation lab. Suing said this is the first time in the institutions history that the staff is all in one place and not split between different floors of the building.
In the historic Carnegie Wing, 12 gallery spaces have been entirely redesigned and rebuilt, with track lights, updated HVAC, internet and more. It also includes a new classroom sponsored by the City of Vermillion.
“We really brought the facility to the 21st century,” Suing said.
Fundraising is still ongoing to install the permanent galleries, which follow three “neighborhoods:” the role instruments play in our lives, instruments as innovation and instruments as art and craft.
The role instruments play in our lives showcases how humans use instruments for signaling and marking time.
“It will be a mix of instruments from across the world,” Suing said. “We were intentional about is the way that we could tell the global story of music and musical instruments in as fair and equitable way as possible.”
The section will also explain the ways instruments and music are used for personal and communal expression, such as faith or propaganda.
A workshop will be installed that showcases a historic bench, tools and designs for the arch top guitar making. Visitors will be able to see the stages of the guitar being built.
Instruments as innovation will show what sound is, how it is made and what impacts it.
Different types of instruments will be highlighted and the way different ideas came together within the instrument designs. Suing said his favorite part is the dynamic among composers, musicians and instrument makers and how they inspired each other.
A highlight of the section will be a hands-on display where people can strike, pluck or speak, and the sound ways will be projected onto the wall.
“Trying to engage people who may be more interested in the technology or engineering of it,” Suing said.
Wood carving, inlaying and painting techniques will be showcased with the crown jewel of the museum, the King cello, world’s oldest known cello on display.
Suing said the new layout is aimed at providing as many access points for people to connect with the story and relate.