Monday, January 14, 2008

The Monday Muse: The Guinness Collection

By Kimberly Baldwin

A clown that loses its head—and gets it back. A ten-foot high mechanical one-man band. A fairground organ that booms out ragtime tunes. A box that teaches birds to sing. All these amazing, 19th century mechanical marvels—and more—are currently on view, many for the first time ever, at the
Morris Museum as part of the Musical Machines & Living Dolls exhibition.

The exhibition features over 150 pieces from the world-renowned Murtogh D. Guinness collection of musical instruments and automata. Largely dating to the 19th century, these ingenious objects once brought animated, musical entertainment to private settings and public places. Now, through video and audio technology, hands-on activities and live demonstrations of select instruments, visitors can see and hear these beautiful and intriguing historic objects and experience for themselves a largely lost chapter in entertainment history.

Steven H. Miller, executive director of the museum, noted that "before there were CDs, iPods, records or DVDs, and well before film, radio and television, there was an amazing age of mechanical invention that brought entertainment to people around the world. The Morris Museum is proud to present the story of this extraordinary epoch.”

The Morris Museum, located at 6 Normandy Heights Road (at the corner of Columbia Turnpike) in Morristown, is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is $8 for adults and $6 for children, students and senior citizens. Admission is always free for museum members and is free to the public every Thursday between 5 and 8 p.m. For more information, call 973.971.3700, or visit

About the image above: It’s all about illusion! This automaton performs a trick that results in its head disappearing—and then magically reappearing—on a table (complete with blinking eyes). Then, with a gentle wave of a feather fan, the head is back where it belongs! All is done to music, as this automaton contains a two-tune, cylinder musical movement.


Anonymous said...

I haven't been to the Morris Museum in AGES! This looks like a great exhibit to take the kids to.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the exhibition and it is absolutely fabulous! The Morris Museum has really stepped up its exhibitions. No need to go into NYC...the Morris Museum has it all. This exhibit is a must see!

Anonymous said...

The museum has really taken a giant leap forward. This new exhibit is only a part of what is going on there. Lots of new gorgeous galleries and lots of great art exhibits. Really a fun place.

MuseumMonkey said...

I'm a fan of historic museums, in general. This one rarely disappointed in the past. I saw some of these instruments when they were part of a smaller display, and they were impressive then. I can only imagine how nice they'll look in the brand new wing.

Bobby said...

i lyke mooseeums

Anonymous said...

The new Morris Museum is georgous. The entry alone gives off such a professional feel, and a beautiful way to enter the Bickford Theatre. The Guinness Gallery is full of detail and design. A must see!