Story+ Project

Curating and Integrating New Visual and Sonic Experiences


Story+ 2022 | Curating and Integrating New Visual and Sonic Experiences

Musical instruments are complex and historically revealing pieces of technology. They reflect both scientific knowledge and artistic practices of a given historical moment. The Duke University Musical Instrument Collections (DUMIC) comprise specialized collections and individual gifts of musical instruments. It was originally founded after the G. Norman and Ruth G. Eddy Collection of Musical Instruments was donated to Duke University in 2000.

While the Eddy Collection consists primarily of Western musical instruments—keyboards, wind, and brass—Duke’s de Hen-Bijl Collection includes over 200 musical instruments, 100 reel-to-reel field recordings, and 1000 slides of instruments from all over the world. Despite the treasures in DUMIC, the community of students and faculty at Duke are largely unaware of the collections or have been unable to visit in person. The aim of this project is to create new ways in which we can learn, appreciate, and benefit from the musical instruments in our care. We are seeking creatively minded students to find new ways to digitally link the musical instruments in DUMIC to their history. Our goal is to tell the story of the musical instruments in our collection and show how physical objects—in this case marvels both technologically and artistically speaking—can reveal complex webs of stories involving different kinds of people, places, and activities. We would like to trace the histories of our instruments using multi-media platforms which will allow them to 'speak' to our students and community in dynamic and interactive ways.

Essential Skills: creative and critical thinking; online research skills; willingness to collaborate and to work independently; passionate approach to communication and outreach in the arts

Desired Skills: musical background of any kind; experience in community outreach in the arts and humanities; skills in oral histories and performing arts; experience with curation and conservation; experience in museums or galleries; photography and videography; audio-visual editing and interfaces; graphic design on digital platforms; experience with multimedia integration

This team has already secured a graduate project manager so will not be reviewing graduate mentor applications at this time.

Project Sponsor(s): 

Roseen Giles, Assistant Professor of Music, Curator, Duke University Musical Instrument Collections

Graduate Mentor(s): 

Hannah Krall, PhD Candidate, Musicology


Peter Petroff, Elaine Guo, Abby Johnson, David Tierney


The Curating and Integrating New Visual and Sonic Experiences Story+ Team spent 6 weeks curating, researching, and digitizing many of the musical instruments in the Duke University Musical Instrument Collections (DUMIC). Our goal was to tell the stories of the musical instruments in our collections and to show how physical objects can reveal complex webs of stories involving different kinds of people, places, and activities. The undergraduate students evaluated the instruments in the collection to determine which instruments they should feature in the museum space and on the website. The instruments on display before this project were mostly of Western origins, which led to the decision to majorly renovate the museum to better fit the goals of DUMIC and the work being done in the music department. By choosing to do this renovation, we faced questions such as: How do we display and position Western instruments with non-Western instruments ethically? What kinds of stories can we tell about the non-Western instruments when details of their specific histories are largely unknown? How do we approach aspects of those stories that have problematic details, such as its acquisition by anthropologists and the materials of which it was made? Once the instruments were chosen, we sought to find as much information on them as we could to educate the website viewer of its maker, social/historical context, and musical context. A large part of this work consisted of finding photos and videos of the instruments being played and making our own photos and recordings. When possible, we interviewed those who have interacted with the collections through donation, performance, or conservation for further understanding of a specific instrument or collection. These interviews with Professor Lex Silbiger, Professor R. Larry Todd, and Mr. John Watson are featured on the website as podcasts. Our website ( showcases the instruments of the collections to give the Duke and Durham community a way to interact with and access the interesting instruments in our collections. We are hopeful that this insightful website will bring more awareness to DUMIC!

Fortepiano by Joseph Kirckman (London, 1794). Courtesy Duke University Musical Instrument Collections.


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