A look inside the National Music Museum

Eye on KELOLAND

VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) – In 2018 the National Music Museum closed its doors to the public for an expansion and renovation project. Now in 2021, the museum is getting closer to welcoming people once again to view its collections, artifacts, and more.

Vermillion is home to the National Music Museum. It was founded in 1973 and located in the Carnegie Library on USD’s campus.

“Since that time, the museum has grown its collection, about 2,600 objects when we first started, and under the first director it grew to almost 15,000, bringing in instruments from around the world,” interim director, Michael Suing said.

Michael Suing is the interim director of the National Music Museum. He says a project like this has been a goal for many years.

“Since its inception, board members have realized we have all of these great instruments, which each have great stories to tell, how can we tell more of those, and in part, having a larger footprint and more gallery space dedicated to do that, has been a priority of the board of trustees and USD, since the late 70s,” Suing said.

In 2018, it finally became a reality.

“We began moving the instruments out, which was not an easy task, each instrument had to be placed back in its original case or a case had to be created for it to keep it safe while we were moving it to our center for preservation and research,” manager of membership and communication, Carol Robertson said.

“In the spring of 2019 we broke ground for the expansion of the museum, which is now the Lillibridge wing, which includes the Wanzek Performance Hall, and the Groves Temporary Exhibit Gallery,” Suing said.

Additionally, the Lillibridge wing includes office space on the second floor, as well as a conservation lab.

“Any of the needs we have for our collection here can be met in this facility,” Suing said.

The project also includes renovating the Carnegie Library. The museum has been working with an exhibit design partner in Chicago to help put together the galleries – breaking them up into different ‘neighborhoods.’

“In the first neighborhood we will be talking about musical instruments and the role they play in our lives, looking at personal expression and communal expression,” Suing said. “In the second neighborhood we will look at the innovation of musical instruments and how over time, either by demands placed on the instrument makers by musicians or themselves, pushing their own creative process.”

A third neighborhood will consist of instruments as art and craft.

“We will be looking at surface decoration and carving and the materials that go into instruments and how over time that has changed due to technological advances or access to materials,” Suing said.

There is still plenty of work that needs to be done, but there are plans to welcome people back this fall.

“We can hardly wait to throw open the doors and welcome everyone back into the facility, COVID had put a damper on that, but we are rolling now,” Robertson said.

A project both Suing and Robertson are excited to eventually share with everyone.

“It’s given us the opportunity to step back and take a look at our collection and see how we can relate to everyone with the things that we have, regardless of your starting point, if you’re an instrument player, maker, or lover, you will find something to connect with here in this new museum,” Robertson said.

Museum officials say they appreciate the support from donors and advocates on this project.

Programming at the museum will run through the academic school year this fall. A temporary exhibition will open in October and run through December. Right now the plan is to have a grand opening in 2023, which is when the museum will celebrate 50 years.

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