VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) – Have you ever had a passion for collecting something? Perhaps it was coins, books, stamps or dolls.

Well for Arne B. Larson, the founder of the National Music Museum, it was musical instruments. By the age of 60, the native Minnesotan had collected more than two thousand instruments.

Every song has an intro, a beginning, a collection of notes that sets the tempo and energy for the rest of the piece.

In the song of the National Music Museum in Vermillion, it was Arne B. Larson who set the tone. The University of South Dakota lobbied for Larson to bring his collection of over two thousand musical instruments to the southeastern South Dakota town.

“It started from our founding director Arne B. Larson having one room in this, what was an original Carnegie library building to eventually the museum expanding to all of the Carnegie library,” Dwight Vaught, director of the National Music Museum said.

Back then it was called the “Shrine to Music Museum.” In 2002, it changed to just the National Music Museum. Now, in 2023, the museum is celebrating 50 years of preserving music history.

“We carry with us the responsibility of 50 years of people who came before us to really form what we’re doing,” Vaught said. “We’re really stewards and managers of what goes on at the National Music Museum.”

The museum has crescendoed since its inception in 1973. Just two years ago, the Lillibridge Wing opened with the Groves Gallery for rotating exhibits and a new concert hall. But there is still more to come as renovations continue on the original museum space in the old Carnegie Library.

“We will celebrate an opening of part of them, part of those exhibits in August of this year,” Vaught said. “It will bring to light now some new thinking, some new ideas about how we use music and music instruments in our lives.”

Starting with only around 25 hundred instruments 50 years ago, the National Music Museum now has roughly 15 thousand instruments in its collection.

“It’s one of the best instrument collections in the world,” Darryl Martin, the collection conservator for the museum said. “It’s up there with collections like Paris or Brussels, Copenhagen, all these collections. And on par with anything else in the states — New York or Washington or Boston.”

That’s a legacy music lovers across the world can appreciate.

“I came from Portugal and I came here just because of the collections. So it is known out there,” Ana Silva, curator at the National Music Museum said.

Trumpets, pianos, drums and more in Vermillion, South Dakota, connecting people both near and far.

“There’s probably not a family around that hasn’t been affected by music as they’re growing up or even in their current life. They might’ve been in music in school, they might be a continuing player, they might be a church musician, they might be a professional musician,” Vaught said. “So these things link us all together and they talk to us about what it means to be human, right, the arts and the humanities are all those things that make us human and connect us together as a community. In our case, we like to collect things and those are things that are really important to us as human beings.”

The National Music Museum may have made it to half a century, but its song isn’t yet a grand finale, not by a long shot.

“This place has a lot of potential that has not been fully explored,” Silva said.

“We owe it to the people of the future that we preserve the instruments as well as can so people in a hundred years’ time can enjoy the instruments just as much as we can enjoy it now,” Martin said.

The current rotating exhibit in the Groves Gallery at the National Music Museum celebrates this 50th anniversary. ‘As Good as Gold, the First 50 Years’ will be on display through October.