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Music on Display

Studies on the Presentation and Reception of Musical Topics in Museums

Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation)



The project deals with the conception and possible interpretations of music exhibitions. It is the first systematic and comprehensive study on exhibitions as institutions of musical culture. The basic assumption is that exhibits can be seen as signs and convey thematic content via their combination with other exhibits. The range of possible topics includes the typology and development of musical instruments as well as aspects of music history and the musical characteristics of certain cultural regions.

In order to describe the topics and the manner in which they are presented, a selection of exhibitions is analyzed. Consequently, the intentions, concepts, and methods of realization are studied in cooperation with museum curators and other officials. Furthermore, the research deals with the question of how visitors – with their unique requirements – explore the exhibitions and the extent to which they actually comply with the curators’ intentions.