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The origins of the collections

The first major Concertina Museum collection was originally housed in The Old Chapel, Belper, Derbyshire, and comprised over 2600 instruments, patent prototypes, manuscripts, images, recordings and archives, including 690 concertinas by every known maker, with related accordéons, melodeons, bandoneons, flutinas and examples of almost every known variant of free-reeded instruments. This collection was started by Neil Wayne in the late 1960s, who also began to edit and distribute 'Free Reed, the Concertina Newsletter', arguably one of the forces behind the concertina revival of the 1970s and '80s.

This collection was acquired by the Horniman Museum in 1996, and a number of the items are now on display in a fine new gallery on the Museum's lower ground floor. The balance of the collection is freely available for research in the Horniman Museum's library at its Forest Hill site, with the bulk of the instruments stored in the Reserve Collection at Greenwich. Information on the Horniman Museum - Wayne Concertina Collection is at: Horniman Wayne Collection

Since 1996, Neil Wayne has continued the active collecting and conservation of concertinas, and of other items related to the social migration of the concertina, and of the life and inventions of Charles Wheatstone. As well as many rare and early instruments, this new Concertina Museum Collection includes over 3,000 images, prints, photographic items and original written sources of information on the concertina, and also documents the story of the "Concertina Revival" of the past 50 years.

The core of the Collection is around 350 or so early concertinas, specifically chosen to illustrate the evolution of Wheatstone's invention from its use as an acoustical demonstration device in the very early 1830s, to its marketing and development by the Wheatstone family's instrument and music businesses as a fashionable instrument, and its copying and manufacture by many ex-Wheatstone craftsmen throughout London during the mid-Victorian period.

The Collection includes examples of early, decorative, prototype and experimental English-made concertinas by all known makers, chosen for their original condition and special features. Wayne's first collection was formed from the early 1960s, when the concertina was an ignored and undervalued part of Britain's musical heritage; instruments could be acquired for small sums, and the new younger players that arose during the 1960s' "Revival" could easily acquire fine playable instruments cheaply. However, the revival is now world-wide, and keen players now far outweigh the supply of what was after all a minor Victorian instrument. Instruments of any age and condition are now eagerly acquired from dealers, 'restorers' and eBay, and unfortunately, these often early and historic instruments are then 'restored' - with new fretwork, new bellows, re-tuned or replaced reeds, labelling removed, and so on - thus removing most of the original historic features from the instrument.

It has always been the policy of the Collection to conserve, in a minimally-intrusive manner, rather than by over-restoration, these surviving early Victorian instruments, and to make available detailed measurements of all their internal and external features; the Concertina Museum site includes these detailed descriptions; each instrument has been carefully dismantled and many detailed photographs taken of all internal and external parts, labels, unusual features and condition. These images are now all available to researchers and enthusiasts via the Concertina website, and these rare instruments should consequently not require any further invasive dismantling, in accordance with modern museum policy.

The early history of Wheatstone and his invention of the concertina is the subject of two papers in the Galpin Society Journal: firstly, "The Wheatstone English Concertina" in the Galpin Society Journal Vol 44, March 1991and "The Invention and Evolution of the English Concertina" in the Galpin Society Journal Vol 61, May 2009

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The Concertina Museum Collection

Created August 2009 by Neil Wayne
Modified September 2011 by Wes Williams
This page created Wednesday 14 September 2011.