This investment will kick-start a three-year project to create new displays and a performance space for the RCM Museum’s extensive and precious collection of historic instruments, including the world’s earliest surviving guitar. It will also give much wider exposure to the site which is located in the heart of South Kensington’s ‘Albertopolis’ museum district.

The funds will support an extensive conservation project, which will be carried out on more than 500 instruments, alongside documentation and digitisation of around 45,000 items that will be available online.

Educational activities will include outreach sessions with schools, nurseries and adult care centres, temporary exhibitions and pop-up exhibitions to reach new audiences.  The programme will also include training, volunteering and internship opportunities for conservation, digitisation and learning/engagement.


“The Royal College of Music is home to an extraordinary collection of instruments which deserve to have plenty of noise made about them,” said Sir Peter Luff, Chair of HLF. “And these exciting proposals are just the thing to get them out of the storage cupboards and into a new, brighter space with increased opening times and instrument handling opportunities. Music should be for everyone’s enjoyment and I think a round of applause is due to National Lottery players for helping open up this treasure trove for that very purpose.”

The RCM’s collection comprises instruments, manuscripts, sculptures, paintings, archives, books and programmes. Unique pieces that can be viewed are a Venetian harpsichord c. 1531; and The Anne Boleyn Book, a choir book dating from 1530 and linked to Henry VIII’s second wife.

Colin Lawson, Director of the RCM, said: “Our rare collection of instruments is of great importance to our students and enhances learning in a multitude of ways. This HLF grant will allow us to progress the vital work needed to establish a new Museum at the very heart of the RCM and offer greater public access than ever before.”

The Royal College of Music Museum currently welcomes 8,000 visitors each year and the figure is projected to rise to more than 40,000 when the conservation and redevelopment programme is completed.  Alongside structural work, opening days will be increased from four to six days and five new fixed-term jobs will be created including a learning and engagement officer and a conservator.

The RCM Museum building will be closed to the public from tomorrow for the redevelopment, which is part of a wider £25m More Music campaign, that will include demolition of the current gallery and the collections will reopen in 2019 in a new interactive display.

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