Sweet Sounds Abound at The MIM Center
Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum, or the MIM Center, offers visitors what many museums don’t: interaction. Catch a show at their on-site venue, designed so there isn’t a bad seat in the house, or bang on some drums on the first floor before heading up to the second floor for a first-hand look at colorful instruments from around the world. When you approach most instruments in the collection, you’ll hear them through the provided headset.
“It’s a fantastic resource,” says Rich Walter, curator for USA and Canada at the museum. “It’s an opportunity to really share cultures from all over the world through the lens of the music they make.”
On the first floor, you’ll find a rotating gallery where a special exhibition is switched out roughly every 6 to 12 months. The current centerpiece of the Target Gallery is dedicated to the Stradivarius violin. In addition to seeing these famed violins—many believed to be made in the 17th and 18th centuries, producing the absolute best sounds—visitors can listen to them being played while learning about their history.
“We were really trying to identify a pinnacle of telling the story of music making, and the Stradivarius violin has, for so many people around the world for generations, represented something of a pinnacle of musical instrument making,” says Walter.
The MIM also features programming centered around this exhibit, including performances by notable violinists and a family weekend, dubbed String Break weekend, where kids can learn more about string instruments.
The focus on kids is undeniable. On the ground floor, there’s a playroom for kids and another room where kids and adults alike can try out different instruments. They can hit gongs, run a mallet across an xylophone and pound on drums— a nice break from upstairs where visitors can look, but not touch, the instruments on display.
One of the shining stars of the bottom floor is the Artist Collection gallery that houses pieces from celebrities. You can see a blue Marchesa dress Taylor Swift wore, and a few instruments she’s played during performances. Johnny Cash’s guitar and black suit are there too, as is the piano where John Lennon composed “Imagine.” You can also feast your eyes on one of Elvis’ guitars, which the MIM Center helped restore the neck of. Guests can even watch MIM Center conservationists work through a glass window mere steps from the exhibit.
Upstairs is where all the different musical instruments from around the world rest. Expect to see, and hear, elaborate multi-pieces from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and North America. The collection here is massive, but your senses will delight in taking in all the different cultures via their native music. Watch traditional European folk dancing, stand inches behind the drum kit that Primus drummer Tim Alexander once played, and even hear traditional Indian chants from here in the Southwest.
Besides its fascinating interior, the MIM is just a gorgeous space all-around. The light-filled interior features high, sweeping ceilings and stunning views of Phoenix’s many mountains. It’s a fitting space for one of the most impressive museums, not just here in Phoenix, but in the world.
For more information on the MIM, please visit MIM.org.