About the MCMI

/ About the MCMI

The Methodological Center of Documentation, Conservation and Restoration of Musical Instruments (MCMI) was established on 1 January 2016 on the initiative of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic. The MCMI is an independent department of the National Museum.

The MCMI was founded to address the current unsatisfactory state of care and preservation of a specific category of tangible cultural heritage – musical instruments – in the Czech Republic.

Musical instruments are the subject of research of a specialised sub-discipline of musicology – organology. The examination and evaluation of instruments requires an expert methodological approach. This is also true of the principles for their care, conservation, and restoration, and of their rules of handling. Throughout the many years of its existence, the historically oldest and also largest Czech collection (with approximately 2,800 musical instruments), in the care of the National Museum – Czech Museum of Music, has been subjected to various means of processing, assessing, and preserving. It has acquired both an extensive library of expert literature and voluminous databases of information necessary for the proper maintenance of musical instruments. The numerous first-class instruments in this collection (including the State Collection of Musical Instruments) have required certain restoration activities in the past, which were undertaken by prominent Czech and international experts. The long-term efforts of the Czech Museum of Music in this field have engendered a dense network of expert contacts, who can recommend suitable conservational and restorative interventions for individual groups of musical instruments. Furthermore, the many years of experience with the correct treatment of historical musical instruments means that the conservators of the Czech Museum of Music constitute a prominent hub of expert knowledge in the field. The founding of a methodological center for the documentation, conservation, and restoration of musical instruments under the auspices of the National Museum – Czech Museum of Music is thus the logical conclusion of the many years of development and expert proficiency that characterise the institution.

The aim of the project

The aim of the project is the expert processing of all types of European musical instruments in Czech collections, using three basic approaches:

  • formulate methodologies for work in the given field
  • provide consultations in the given field
  • process specific collections

To process collections means to furnish them with expert documentation, to assess their condition, and to propose suitable conservational or restorative intervention. The  creation of methodological manuals will result in a unified and scientifically correct concept of how to process collections of musical instruments in the Czech Republic. Expert consultancy is necessary because most of the collections of musical instruments are not administered by specialists but instead by art historians, general historians, museologists, etc., whose methodological approaches to the treatment of historical artefacts differ in significant ways from organological methods. Finally, the survey of the collections of musical instruments of various institutions (museums, National Heritage sites, church institutions, schools, private entities) will result both in the processing of collection items and in the heightened awareness of the number and condition of musical instruments as a specific area of tangible cultural heritage in the Czech Republic.

The concept

The concept of the methodological center draws in part from experience with other methodological centers that operate in the Czech Republic, but its methodological aspect mainly builds on the universal standards of CIMCIM, that is, the International Committee of Museums and Collections of Instruments and Music (http://network.icom.museum/cimcim), and on the MIMO project (Musical Instrument Museums online, http://www.mimo-international.com/MIMO).

The scope of the project includes all types of musical instruments, primarily items from the traditional instrumentarium of European music culture, secondarily also instruments of European folk culture. Instruments of non-European music cultures have been excluded from the scope of the methodological center for now, as such items are rare in Czech collections and require a specific approach both to documentation and to conservation and restoration.

The great diversity of historical and artistic value of the musical instruments in Czech collections necessitates dividing the items in scope into three categories (listed below), with each category requiring a separate processing concept (mainly with regard to restoration methodology):

  • Category A: instruments of global cultural and historical importance
  • Category B: instruments of national cultural and historical importance
  • Category C: instruments of general historical importance

Key activities

The aim of the project includes a range of specialised activities, which are present in all three of the basic approaches:

  • expert processing of musical instruments in Czech collections
  • advice and consultancy regarding the documentation, conservation, and restoration of musical instruments
  • conservation and restoration of musical instruments
  • provision of independent expert assessments regarding conservation/restoration
  • creation of specific methodological manuals for the documentation of musical instruments and for common conservation practice
  • documentation of conservational and restorative interventions
  • cooperation with other methodological centers and specialised institutions in the Czech Republic and abroad
  • definition of the correct standards of care for collection
  • assessment of climate and lighting conditions, chemical influences in museums
  • expansion and completion of library of expert literature available to the public
  • education service and promotion (publications, lectures at conferences)

Scheduled tasks

The implementation of the project is based on the fulfilment of a sequence of scheduled tasks according to the following medium-term plan:

2016

  • create specialised methodologies for the documentation and conservation of musical instruments
  • basic documentation of the collections of musical instruments of involved institutions in order to more accurately assess the number and condition of musical instruments in the Czech Republic
  • estimate the most valuable items (Categories A, B) in direct danger of terminal  decay and provide support for suitable conservational intervention (to conserve the instrument in the current condition to stop further deterioration)

2017

  • ongoing detailed documentation of select collections of musical instruments
  • create specialised methodologies for the restoration of musical instruments
  • provide support for decisions regarding restorative interventions for the most valuable artefacts (Category A)
  • provide access to the created methodologies for involved institutions via publications and workshops
  • advice and consultancy

2018

  • ongoing detailed documentation of select collections of musical instruments
  • provide support for decisions regarding restorative interventions for the most valuable artefacts (Category A)
  • provide support for decisions regarding conservational (possibly also restorative) interventions for other artefacts (Category B)
  • advice and consultancy

2019

  • ongoing detailed documentation of select collections of musical instruments
  • provide support for decisions regarding conservational (possibly also restorative) interventions for further artefacts (Category C)
  • advice and consultancy
  • evaluate the activities and results of the methodological center, update key activities and prepare a new medium-term plan for the years 2020–2024