Royal College of Music opens a new and unique museum of music

The highly anticipated Royal College of Music Museum has open to the public on 5 October 2021, offering visitors the unique opportunity to interact with over 500 years of musical history. Items on permanent display include the world’s oldest guitar and earliest keyboard instrument with strings, along with 56 other fascinating instruments specially chosen from the Royal College of Music’s designated collection of over 15,000 items to bring musical history to life.

The Royal College of Music Museum was built from scratch as part of the RCM’s £40 million four-year campus transformation project. Since 2017, the College’s iconic Grade II listed South Kensington home has nearly doubled in capacity, with the new performance spaces, a triple-height atrium and a new café designed by celebrated architect John Simpson.

Building work continued throughout the pandemic, including fit-out and instrument mounting under strict social distancing rules, but the Museum’s intended opening date had to be delayed. The new Royal College of Music Museum brings public access to the heart of the historic institution, alongside a new public café and two new performance spaces.

The Royal College of Music Museum is intended as an interactive experience, with regular performances by RCM musicians and the opportunity for visitors to create their own music in the Weston Discovery Centre. As well as musical instruments, the Museum tells its story through art, including an iconic portrait of Farinelli and a remarkable Tischbein featuring an instrument from the collection displayed alongside.

There are three key areas – Music is Creation, Music is Craft and Music is Performance – each exploring phases of the creative process from the birth of a new idea, its realisation through craftsmanship, to performance. In the Museum’s beautiful double-height atrium space, a hanging artwork installation by Scottish artist Victoria Morton takes its inspiration from the permanent exhibition, having been specially commissioned and created for the space.

The Royal College of Music Museum provides unparalleled insights into music history for the public and is also an important additional learning space for RCM students. Musicians studying at the renowned institution will have access to the instruments and resident experts, complimenting their research and study with first-hand experience. The new Wolfson Centre in Music & Material Culture will house more of the Museum’s collection and facilitate on-site conservation work. Students will be able to volunteer for Museum-led educational activities aimed at primary, secondary and home-educated children.

For more information, visit the Royal College of Music's website here.

The entrance to the RCM Museum is located within the heart of the Royal College of Music’s South Kensington building
royal college of music
16th-century singers and dancers would have been accompanied by instruments like this exceptional Portuguese specimen, which happens to be the oldest surviving guitar in the world.
royal college of music museum
The new RCM Museum is open for you to marvel at the unique and rare instruments that have shaped the College’s musical history.