|The collection's history has its start in the last century. Its beginning is closely tied to the activities of Paul de Wit (1852-1925), a Dutchman based in Leipzig. In 1886, he set up a museum next to Leipzig's St. Thomas church to display old instruments. Paul de Wit himself often led visitors through the exhibits. (Today, the building, Thomaskirchhof 16, is home to Leipzig's Bach Memorial Museum und Archive.)
Paul de Wit offered his entire collection for sale to the city of Leipzig. After negotiations proved fruitless, he sold it in 1905 to Wilhelm Heyer (1849-1913), a wealthy paper manufacturer in Cologne. There the "Wilhelm Heyer Museum of Music History" opened its doors to the public in 1913. Before that Heyer managed to buy the valuable musical instrument collection of Baron Alessandro Kraus of Florence and a set of keyboard instruments purchased from the piano manufacturer Ibach in Barmen.
After the unexpected death of Wilhelm Heyer in 1913 the Museum remainded open for several years. Then in the mid 1920s Heyer's heirs decided to sell the collection. Henri Hinrichsen, proprietor of the the world-famous firm of music publishers C. F. Peters, came forward with the enormous sum of 200,000 marks. The state of Saxony subsequently made available a grant of 600,000 marks, with the result that in 1926 it was possible to acquire all the instruments from the Heyer Collection for the University of Leipzig.
The city of Leipzig made available the northern wing of the recently constructed Grassi Museum for the new home of the Heyer Collection. On May 30th 1929 the Musical Instrument Museum of the University of Leipzig was formally opened.
In 1943 the Museum's more valuable instruments were moved to nearby castles in an attempt to proctect them from the ravages of war. In spite of the protective measure, the damage inflicted on the collection as a result of World War II was catastrophic. A bomb attack on December 3rd, 1943 entirely gutted the Grassi Museum. The Ibach collection of pianos as well as the library and archive were destroyed. When the evacuated pieces ultimately returned, only few of them were still in good condition, and considerable losses were suffered due to theft and improper storage.
In the early 1950s the Museum was gradually rebuilt, and exhibits went on display once more. Today the collection offers the visitor an accurate perspective of the development of musical instruments in Europe from Renaissance up until the present day. |