The Museum Vleeshuis hosted collections, mostly related to the history of the city , collected since the 19th century. Amongst the ca 80.000 items of archaeology, decorative art and numismatics a small but very representative collection of musical instruments had its importance not only for the history of the city of Antwerp but also for the general history of music making and not at least for a new approach to interpretation of early music by using information of the only contemporary witness: the musical instrument.
Musical instruments are seldom a priority in museums with large collections; they need a curator with scholarly training in organology in order to preserve the instruments in safe conditions.That is why the Ruckers Genootschap took care of the financial burden for the restoration of the instruments. This was only done after gaining advice of internationally trained scholars and technicians: the condition of some of the instruments does not permit to sound again. Only those whose structure could resist the tension of the strings were restored to sounding instruments.
The Vleeshuis collection became internationally very important because of the fact that instruments, made within one city, more than 400 hundreds years ago are still preserved in a building the "Vleeshuis" (1501-1504) that was at its culminating point during Antwerp's Golden Age.
The instruments of the Vleeshuis collection have different owners: City of Antwerp, Hogeschool Antwerp and Ruckers Genootschap; since 1970 all maintenance of the instruments was financed by the Ruckers Genootschap. For the courses instruments from private collections (Jos van Immerseel, Claire Chevallier and Kris Verhelst) were also available; they offer a better view of the differences in keyboard making during the past centuries.
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