CIMCIM Publications No.2: 1994
ISSN 1019-9977

Training in Musical Instrument Conservation

Part 1: A Survey on Training for Musical Instrument Conservators


A proposal to survey institutions that take an active role in the training of musical instrument conservators was made at the CIMCIM meeting in Berlin in April 1988. It was shaped into a Working Group with the following participants: Bob Barclay, Ottawa, Canada; Friedemann Hellwig, Cologne, Germany; Cary Karp, Stockholm, Sweden; and, as coordinator, Peter Andreas Kjeldsberg, Trondheim, Norway. During the ICOM General Conference in Quebec, September 1992, Friedemann Hellwig took over the coordination. The purpose of undertaking this survey was CIMCIM's general interest in conservation problems and up-to-date knowledge about training courses in the special field of musical instrument conservation. It was also seen as a way of focusing on the need for training as well as of raising questions about the content and academic level of a study course on musical instrument conservation.

An application for financial support of the survey was made to the UNESCO Programme of Participation in the Activities of Member States for the 1988-89 Biennium (Doc.24 C/15.8) - Training of Personnel, and the sum of US$ 5,500 was granted.

A questionnaire of four pages in English and French was written by Peter A. Kjeldsberg and Bob Barclay and distributed to 274 conservation training institutions around the world. A reminder was sent out when the first deadline to respond expired. Addresses were kindly supplied by the International Centre for Conservation in Rome (ICCROM). Two sociologists of Trondheim University, Birgitte Kalseth and Heidi Engesbakk, helped to process the replies which in many cases went beyond simple responses to the questions, thus enriching the material to be evaluated, but rendering it more difficult to systematize in the original context of the questionnaire. Because it was impossible to draw a clear picture of the responses by means of statistics, the results are presented here in the form of continuous text.


The following is a condensed reprint of the English version of the questionnaire (spaces to be filled on the form have been deleted).

Questionnaire on Training in Musical Instrument Conservation

In order to foster the universal adoption of museum standards for the conservation of musical instruments in public collections, and to assess the requirements for trained personnel in the discipline, the Comite International des Musees et Collections d'Instruments de Musique (CIMCIM) of ICOM is conducting a survey of conservation training centres. We would be obliged if you could respond in as much detail as possible to the questionnaire on the following pages.

Section One

1. Do you have a course unit in your curriculum on musical instrument conservation? If yes, please answer the following questions:
a) What type of institution is the course held in? (technical college, university, art school, etc.)
b) Is there a collection attached to the training institution?
c) If the course is held in a museum, what type of museum? (musical instrument, anthropological, general, etc.)
d) How long has the course been offered?
e) What type of certificate is awarded?
f) What qualifications do students require to participate in the course?
g) What is the duration of the course?
h) Is a course description available?
i) Who are the instructors for the musical instrument unit?
j) What technical facilities are there for the examination of objects?
k) Please include any other relevant information on the course:

Section Two

If the answer to Question 1 is no, please continue:

2. Do units of your curriculum deal specifically with decorative arts objects?
3. Do units of your curriculum deal specifically with technical and scientific artifacts?
4. Does your curriculum include material on handling, use, and restoration of functional artifacts?
5. Would you consider including a section in your curriculum on musical instrument conservation?
6. If you were to include musical instrument conservation in your curriculum:
a) At what level would the course unit be taught?
b) What length would the course unit be?
c) Would the course unit be taught by your own lecturers, or by guests?
d) What facilities and expertise would you be able to draw upon from your own institution?
7. Any other observations?

Section Three

1. Have you had requests in the past for training in musical instrument conservation?
2. In your experience, do you consider training in musical instrument conservation to be desirable and/or necessary for the region/country you serve?
3. In your opinion, how many musical instrument conservators are needed in your region/country:
a) As specialists in musical instruments?
b) As generalists with some training in musical instruments?
4. Any other comments about training for musical instrument conservators:


Of the 274 institutions contacted, 64 (or 23%) responded to the questionnaire. Of these, 29 gave negative replies to all questions. The report is therefore prepared on the basis of responses from the 35 institutions which provided positive input. Since the return of the completed questionnaires some time has elapsed; therefore, information in the replies has been updated where necessary.


There were three positive replies:

Fachhochschule Koeln
This is an institution offering training in the restoration and conservation of various specialties. After four years of successful study the academic degree of a Diplom-Restaurator is awarded by the state. The training is divided in two phases: a ground (basic) study and a head (main) study. The ground study runs for three semesters, followed by a practical semester spent in conservation labs of museums, monument offices or in private workshops; the main study includes four semesters also comprising the writing of the diploma thesis.

Three years of practical work in a conservation atelier is required in order to be accepted at Fachhochschule Koeln, in addition to successfully passing an entry test. One of the present five courses deals with wooden objects, taught among others by Professor Friedemann Hellwig. Within this structure, learning the basics of musical instrument conservation is possible. The main goal of this course is to give the students a sound knowledge in general conservation theoretical and practical questions and to provide them with adequate practical experience in conservation techniques together with a basic introduction into conservation analytical techniques. There is no course dedicated wholly to musical instrument conservation. However, students showing special interest in musical instruments will be given extra attention and will be encouraged to write their diploma thesis on a subject from this field. The conservation courses have been running since 1986; well equipped conservation and analytical labs are at the students' disposal. There is no collection attached to the school.

Germanisches Nationalmuseum - Institut fuer Kunsttechnik und Konservierung, Nuremberg
This is one of Europe's major museums of cultural history, which also includes one of the largest collections of Western musical instruments in Europe. The museum has several conservation workshops, among them one for musical instruments. The training takes eight terms (four years). Instructors include the institute's chief conservator, a chemist and two musical instrument conservators. Well equipped workshops are available. No specialized initial qualifications are required; applicants with a certificate in some related field (also crafts) are invited to participate in an entry test. In addition, basic musical knowledge is expected. A course description is available. There is no certificate awarded after completing the training other than a written statement and description of the content of the training.

[A note on the situation in Germany: in a recent meeting at the Leipzig University Museum of Musical Instruments specialists from the fields of large church organs, museum collections of the smaller instruments, state monument offices, and conservation training institutes discussed the current situation of training in Germany. Special regard was given to the formal training courses in other fields of conservation presently offered at Fachhochschule fuer bildende Kuenste (Dresden), Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste (Stuttgart), Fachhochschule Koeln, Fachhochschule Hildesheim, and soon also at Fachhochschule fuer Technik und Wirtschaft (Berlin) as well as at Fachhochschule Erfurt. It was noted that the conservation of musical instruments is not included in any of these courses (except for the fact that some consideration is given to instruments at Fachhochschule Koeln, see above). A document was drafted asking the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Restauratoren (the largest German association of conservators) to support a plea to training institutions to include musical instruments in their curricula.]

Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste - Meisterschule fuer Konservierung, Vienna
Training for conservation of musical instruments is not part of the regular curriculum. However, an occasional course was given in 1986/87, and it is possible for students to focus their diploma within this field.

[The situation in June of 1993 differs: there is no course for musical instrument conservation anywhere in Austria. However, conservators and their associations hope that a third training institution besides the Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste and the Hochschule fuer Angewandte Kunst will be established taking care of all conservation fields currently not covered, including musical instruments. Communication from Alfons Huber, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.]


This section lists those institutions that would consider introducing musical instruments into their training scheme and also those who have no plans for this.

3.2.1 Institutions with Units of Curricula Dealing with Decorative Arts, and Willing to Consider Including a Section on Musical Instrument Conservation

These institutions are:


a) Europe

b) USA

c) Canada

d) Australia

3.2.2 Institutions without Units of Curricula Dealing with Decorative Arts, but Which Had Interest in Including a Section on Musical Instrument Conservation

Two institutions are included here:


a) France

b) Republique Centrafricaine


General evaluation

The remaining 16 institutions responded that they would not at this moment consider taking up training in the conservation of musical instruments in their curricula. This is partly because they already deal with other types of artifacts, partly because the expressed need is not strong enough to modify the priorities in their curricula. In spite of this there is a serious and strong interest among the institutions in the questions related to training for conservation of musical instruments. Nearly all specifically answered yes, that it is desirable and/or necessary to have the option of this type of training in the country/region. The number of conservators needed varies between two to six and ten to twenty. Whether this should be a specific training or part of a general conservation training is not quite clear; it cannot be read precisely from the answers. The level on which training should be done varies considerably. It was stated that musical instrument conservation is often learned through an apprenticeship and that an accreditation system is needed. Other answers touch upon the dilemmas encountered when conserving functional artifacts. Respondents stated that training in this field must involve consideration of ethics.


Since the compilation of this survey, the Museums and Galleries Commission (MGC) of the United Kingdom has supported an independent survey of musical instrument collections. The work of Kate Arnold Forster and Helene La Rue has been published by the MGC under the title Museums of Music. This is an in-depth survey of collections with 14 recommendations under the following headings: Acquisitions and Collecting, Conservation and Care of Collections, Staff and Training, and Interpretation and Documentation. The recommendations for conservation and care include the publication of Standards of Care for Musical Instruments, wider dissemination of information, establishment of a scheme for providing training, and the creation of an advisory panel of experts.


Although the survey gives only a limited picture of the situation of training for musical instrument conservation at the time of its production, it is apparent there is a decidedly positive attitude towards the need for such training. We hope this survey will serve as a basis to work from when discussing the content of training, the initial qualification required, and the length and level of future courses. It is hoped that this survey will be a tool for continued discussions within CIMCIM and between CIMCIM and the ICOM Conservation Committee.


Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste in Wien
Meisterschule fuer Restaurierung und Konservierung
Schillerplatz 3, 1010 Vienna, Austria

Bibliotheque Nationale
Centre de Conservation
Chateau de Sable, 72300 Sable-sur-Sarthe, France

British Museum
Department of Conservation
Great Russell Street, London WC1, UK

Canadian Conservation Institute
1030 Innes Road, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0C8, Canada

Cleveland Museum of Art
Conservation Department
11150 East Boulevard, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
P.O. Box C, Williamsburg, Virginia 23187, USA

Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris
14, rue de Madrid, 75008 Paris, France

Department of Archaeology
46, Saddler Street, Durham DH1 3NU, UK

Fachhochschule Koeln
Fachbereich Restaurierung und Konservierung von Kunst- und Kulturgut
Claudiusstrasse 1, 50678 Cologne, Germany

Gateshead Technical College
Durham Road, Gateshead Tyne & Wear NE9 5BN, UK

Germanisches Nationalmuseum
Institut fuer Kunsttechnik und Konservierung
Kornmarkt 1, 90402 Nuremberg, Germany

Getty Conservation Institute
4503 Glencoe Avenue, Marina del Rey, CA 90292-6537, USA

Harvard University Art Museums
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Horniman Museum and Library
London Road, Forest Hill, London SE2 3PQ, UK

Instituto per l'arte e il restauro
Vie dei Fossi 12, 50123 Florence, Italy

James Cook University of North Queensland
Material Culture Unit
Townsville 4811, Australia

Kunitachi College of Music
Gakkigaku Shiryokan (Collection for Organology)
Tashikawa, Tokyo, Japan

Ministere de la Communication des Arts et de la Culture
Direction des Arts & Culture
Bangui, Republique Centrafricaine

Musee National Suisse
Artisanat et habitation
Casse postale 6789, 8023 Zurich, Switzerland

Newark Technical College
Chauntry Park, Newark on Trent, Nottinghamshire NG24 1PB, UK

New York University
Institute of Fine Arts, Conservation Center
14 East 78th Street, New York, New York 10021, USA

Oppleiding Restauratoren
Gabriel Metsustraat 8, 1071 EA Amsterdam, Netherlands

Queen's University
Art Conservation Programme
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada

Science Museum
South Kensington, London SW7 2DD, UK

State University College at Buffalo
Art Conservation Department RH 230,
1300 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, New York 14222-1095, USA

Textile Conservation Centre
Apartment 22, Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey KT8 9AU, UK

United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service, Harper's Ferry Center
Harper's Ferry, West Virginia 25425, USA

Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Facultad de Bellas Artes, Seccion Restauracion
Ciudad Universitaria, 28040 Madrid, Spain

University of Delaware
Art Conservation Program
Newark, Delaware 19716, USA

University of Oxford
Department of Ethnology and Pitt Rivers Museum
South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PP, UK

University of Pennsylvania
Graduate Program in Historic Preservation
The Graduate School of Fine Arts
214 Meyerson Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Victoria & Albert Museum
South Kensington, London SW7 2RL, UK

Virginia Commonwealth University
Department of Art History
922 West Franklin Street, Richmond, Virginia 23284-2519, USA

Wayne State University
Purdy/Kresge Library Complex
5265 Cass Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48202, USA

Authors and Compilers

F. Hellwig (text)
Fachhochschule Koeln
Cologne, Germany

P.A. Kjeldsberg (questionnaire and survey)
Ringve Museum
Trondheim, Norway

R.L. Barclay (questionnaire)
Canadian Conservation Institute
Ottawa, Canada

C. Karp (network grunt)
Swedish Museum of Natural History
Stockholm, Sweden

Parts 2 and 3 of this work will be posted to the list at a later date.

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