About the collections

Discover the development of the piano and its music through the collections presented by Museum Geelvinck, Pianola Museum and Huis Midwoud.

This catalogue encompasses the stringed keyboard instrument collections of Museum Geelvinck, Pianola Museum, Huis Midwoud and the former Sweelinck Museum (today under the wings of Museum Geelvinck). It gives an overview of the development of the piano and its music since the second half of the 18th century up till and including the player piano in the early part of the 20th century.

Today, the piano is the most widespread instrument played on our globe. It is being performed on by all layers of society in nearly all parts of the world. The piano, including its electronic offsprings, is instrumental to nearly all contemporary music genres, besides being the key instrument for classical music composition up till today. To understand the musical development of the last two and a half centuries, which has lead to today’s music scene, it is essential to interpret its history, in which the technical development of the piano plays a pivotal role. In short, the period piano and the living technical and musical heritage connected to it are indispensable for interpreting classical music and, more in general, understanding the current music scene. It should be noted, that over time the piano was also symbolically instrumental in several emancipatory movements, such as gender.

With their collections, Museum Geelvinck, Pianola Museum and Huis Midwoud each cover part of this history. Museum Geelvinck currently holds a collection of over 300 stringed keyboard instruments and, in addition, related instruments. These instruments – mainly fortepianos – for most part date from the late 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries, with some earlier 18th century instruments and some later 19th and even 20th century instruments. Huis Midwoud covers the late 19th century, Pianola Museum’s collection mainly concerns the player piano: over 100 pianola’s, as well as a library with more than 30.000 pianola roles, one of the largest worldwide. Together, well over 400 historic stringed keyboard instruments, next to a major collection of pianola rolls and extensive libraries and documentation on the subject.

Museum Geelvinck
The stringed keyboard instrument collection managed by Museum Geelvinck gives a thorough overview of the development of the pianoforte in Europe during the second half of the 18th century and thereafter. There is no comparable Dutch collection of early pianos. The only other Dutch collection, which encompasses some important fortepianos from the same period, is the extensive musical instrument collection which is managed by the Rijksmuseum (formerly, the collection of the Gemeentemuseum The Hague).

A unique feature of Museum Geelvinck’s collection is its sub-collection of over thirty early period pianos which were built in the Netherlands and/or by Dutch pianomakers. Together these give an impression of the development of the early piano-industry in the Netherlands. It is the only collection of its kind worldwide. In 2007 this important sub-collection was designated for listing as National Treasure under the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (Wet behoud cultureel erfgoed / Wbc, today part of the Erfgoedwet), however the procedure became dormant due to budget cuts following the financial crisis in 2008 and only in 2020 was the procedure was put forward again.

Since 2004 the museum, then located in an Amsterdam canal mansion from the 17th century, the Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis, received several early pianos on loan from the Sweelinck Museum. This musical instrument museum, which in its heydays showed over 120 early period pianos, was situated in the attic of the Sweelinck Conservatory since 1991. However, in 2017 the Sweelinck Museum was closed as the Conservatory of Amsterdam moved to a new building. As a result, the full Sweelinck Collection has been brought under the wings of Museum Geelvinck. To house part of this collection, in 2012 Museum Geelvinck opened another venue, located in the catacombs of the Posthoornkerk in Amsterdam. This venue is mainly being used for educational purposes in collaboration with the conservatory, as well as for a storage depot and for occasional gatherings, performances and concert recordings. In May 2020 the Posthoornkerk venue was scheduled to open for the public as the Geelvinck Early Piano Museum Amsterdam, which had to be postponed until Summer 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The last few years have been especially challenging for Museum Geelvinck, because after moving part of its collection to a new venue in Zutphen in 2016, in late 2019 it was forced to close down its new museum facilities due to municipal budget cuts. Since 2020, Museum Geelvinck is involved in the development of an artist’s house museum near the village of Heerde. There and on several other museum and historical house locations throughout the country, the museum placed working period pianos on loan and manages concert series. In addition, it is in the process of developing its online presence.

Regretfully, due to a structural lack of funding, the far majority of the stringed keyboard instruments under Museum Geelvinck’s stewardship is in storage. Most of these instruments need small up to major conservation and/or restoration work. Part of the collection concerns reference objects. However, to keep the immaterial – technical and musical – heritage connected to these instruments alive, it is essential that at least a greater part of the other instruments will be restored to a playable condition for educational purposes or for high-quality public performances. To accomplish such, a museum grading process has been started for making choices to distinguish between the kernel museum collection on the one hand and instruments for educational uses and outplacement on the other hand. Nevertheless, we will endeavor to allow for as much digital access to the museum collection, as well as the outside instruments, as possible through this site. If you wish to see an instrument in our storage in person, please contact the museum to arrange an appointment. Museums, historic houses open to the public, educational and heritage institutions, as well as chamber music ensembles and individual, professional fortepianists, interested in receiving an instrument on loan (not being for one-time performances) are invited to contact Museum Geelvinck.

Pianola Museum

Huis Midwoud