Getting back into museum visiting mode, I paid a visit this weekend to a place I’ve been meaning to go for a long time: the Royal Academy of Music Museum. I’ve attended a few concerts at the Royal Academy of Music and often walked past the free museum, but I’ve never had the chance to go as it’s only open during the day. I headed down on Saturday afternoon, turning left out of Baker Street station and passing the queue of expectant tourists waiting to go into Madam Tussaud’s.
The museum is located in the RAM’s premises on Marylebone Road. It has an entrance area with a gift shop (not to mention a well-stocked selection of music books) and displays on three floors.
The ground floor covers the history of the RAM, which was founded in 1822 by a group of aristocrats. The Academy’s first premises were on Tenterden Street; the first pupils were youngsters aged 10-15 and the President was former child prodigy William Crotch. Eventually the Academy attracted royal patronage, with George IV signing the Royal Charter in 1830.
The rest of the ground floor is given over to special exhibitions; the current exhibition focuses on the Spencer Collection, which came to the Academy from the estate of Robert ‘Bob’ Spencer, professor of Early English Song at the Academy for many years. Spencer was a former librarian, and loved tracking down and collecting the rare manuscripts and instruments that form the backbone of his fascinating collection, which was instrumental (pun intended) in igniting the study of early music in England.
The first floor is the home of the Strings Gallery, which has some fine examples of harps, violins, violas, a cello and a double bass. One violin is a Stradivari. The Piano Gallery is located on the second floor, with a number of fine examples of instruments from several centuries, including Georgian square pianos, early nineteenth century Broadwood instruments (one of these was gifted to Beethoven) and a Steinway grand.
The gallery is a very pleasant place to visit for anyone with an interest in music and instruments; it’s full of fascinating historical information.
Address: 1–5 York Gate, Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5HT
Opening Hours: 11.30am–5.30pm Monday to Friday, 12pm–4pm Saturday