Curator, Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments

Lecturer in Music, Department of Music

Programme Director – MMus in Musical Instrument Research, Department of Music 

The instrument collections which are owned by the University of Edinburgh are housed in two separate buildings, but are under a single management structure.  This arrangement came into effect in 2004, and marks the end of a long period of transition.  The collections are, administratively, under the Special Collections section of the University, itself part of the library umbrella.  This marks a change from the previous arrangement in which the collections were part of the (then) Faculty of Music.  Despite this change, the collections still have very close links to the Music Department and both the Director – Professor Arnold Myers, and Curator – Dr Darryl Martin, teach both undergraduate and postgraduate classes with the Music Department.


The two collections are housed at the Reid Concert Hall Museum of Instruments and the St Cecilia’s Hall Museum of Instruments.  The collection housed at the Reid Concert Hall consists of woodwind, brasswind, bowed string, percussion and non-Western instruments, and are on display in what is the oldest musical instrument museum display in the world, using original showcases dating from the mid nineteenth century.  Although there are some older collections (those in Paris and Brussels), those collections are no longer in their original homes.  The nucleus of the collection was formed by Professor John Donaldson who used them as an important part of his teaching work, collection many of them from the 1840s onwards.  Since then they have been added to substantially, and the collection has been particularly fortunate in being gifted some important private collections over the years, including those of Rendall, Blades, Brackenbury, the Galpin Society, and, most recently, the superb clarinet collection of Professor Sir Nicholas Shackleton.  Other private collections are also on loan to the museum, creating a collection that is, in certain aspects, unrivalled.

The St Cecilia’s Hall Museum of Instruments is best known as the home of the Russell Collection.  The hall itself is the oldest purpose-built concert hall in Scotland, dating from 1763 (only the Holywell Music Room in Oxford is older in Britain as a whole).  The Russell Collection was added to a small collection of early keyboard instruments already owned by the University and has been added to subsequently by gifts and purchases.  Most recently the collection was greatly boosted by the gift of the Rodger Mirrey Collection – a gift which is larger in number than the original Russell gift and is almost entirely complementary in its holdings.  The collection – already outstanding, is now unsurpassed for its breadth in the world.  The hall has also recently become home to the plucked instruments which were previously at the Reid Concert Hall, including guitars, lutes, harps and zithers.  Many of these instruments were part of the Macaulay Collection, and the guitars are particularly outstanding, including the work of all of the major early nineteenth-century makers, as well as a wide-ranging number of earlier baroque instruments.  These are displayed in new showcases which have been designed to allow the viewer the best possible view.  

General view of Reid Concert Hall Museum

View of "1812 Gallery" at St Cecilia's Hall

View of "Newman Gallery" at St Cecilia's Hall


In addition to undergraduate courses which use the collections (there is a component of the first year which looks at the history of musical instruments, and in the honours years (third and fourth years) students may do the history of musical instruments or musical instrument acoustics), there is an active postgraduate community of organologists.

Students can study musical instruments at Masters level by doing either a MMus in Musical Instrument Research, or a MSc by Research.  The MMus is a taught Masters programme, in which students take two semesters of classes, followed by a dissertation of c 15000 words.  There are six classes in total – three specifically on musical instruments (Keyboard Organology, taught by Darryl Martin; Organology of Stringed Instruments, taught by Darryl Martin; and Organology of Wind and Percussion Instruments, taught by Arnold Myers), two Research Methods courses, and an Individual Research Project (which may also be on musical instruments).  The MSc by Research allows students to do more concentrated work, there being just two taught courses (on Research Methods) and the student must also write an extended dissertation (c 30000 words) or submit a portfolio of writings amounting to the same word count.  The instrument collections are used as the primary source of study materials for these classes.

There are a number of students carrying out PhD research in organology at Edinburgh, with subjects presently ranging from the gigue (early bowed-string instrument), through various other fields (English spinets, harpsichord acoustics, saxhorns), to the early electric guitar and musical instrument ergonomics.  Students make full use of  the University instrument collections, and there are also links with other major collections over the world, and with many private collectors.  Students are also encouraged to give papers at international conferences (the recent joint meeting of the American Musical Instrument Society, Galpin Society and CIMCIM had full-length papers from four PhD students as well as from Arnold Myers and Darryl Martin, and four papers from others who have studied or worked in Edinburgh) and to offer papers for major international journals. 


The University homepage can be found at, and the Music Department homepage is  Details about Dr Darryl Martin and Prof Arnold Myers (as well as other members of staff) can be found at

Details about the courses and all aspects of studying in Edinburgh can be found at 

Information on the instrument collections can be seen at, where there is also a special section on postgraduate musical instrument studies in Edinburgh.  At that page one can follow links to the collections at each building.  There is also a webpage for the Friends of St Cecilia’s Hall, including a list of publications which can be found at

Anyone interested in studying organology in Edinburgh is advised to speak informally to either Darryl Martin or Arnold Myers (depending on the particular study interests) in the first instance.  Details can be found at the above-mentioned contacts page.