The musical instrument collections were principally established for musical instrument research and academic instruction, but hands-on research for publication, making technical drawings, building replica instruments, demonstrations, recording etc. are actively encouraged and facilitated by curatorial staff.
The purpose of the Collection is to promote the study of the history, construction and functions of instruments of music and all cognate matters, the furtherance of research and the propagation of knowledge of instrumental history. The emphasis of the Collection is on instruments that are no longer in regular current use and the collecting policy is to acquire instruments when they fall out of use rather than to collect instruments by contemporary makers. The Collection thus covers the period from the 16th century (the earliest period from which examples are available for acquisition) to the 20th century.
Many of the instruments are still playable and through an established concert programme and as a regular venue during the Edinburgh International Festival, the Concert Room provides a contemporaneous setting for performances, within which the audience can be seen as the interface between the University and the public. For instance, St Cecilia’s Hall is the only place in the world where it is possible to hear 18th-century music in an 18th-century concert hall played on 18th-century instruments.