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Stearns Collection

Holding over 2,500 historical and contemporary musical instruments from all over the world, the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments is one of the largest accumulations of such artifacts housed in a North American university. Known internationally as a unique collection, it is not only a precious heritage from the past, but also a rich resource for musical, educational, and cultural needs of the present and future.


September 18, 2017-September 9, 2018

This exhibition features a selection of Americana musical instruments with origins from around the world. Admission is free.
Open M-F from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Gifts of Art Gallery
Cancer Center Elevator Alcove, Level 2
1500 E. Medical Center Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Additionally, there are exhibit galleries in the Lower Lobby and Second Balcony of the University's Hill Auditorium.  Exhibition hours and access are limited to holders of tickets for previously scheduled Hill Auditorium events.


The collection is available to faculty and students to support and advance their musical and intellectual research. John Granzow, Assistant Professor of Music, incorporated the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments into an assignment for his PAT 461: Performance Systems class in the Fall of 2017. Below is a description of the assignment:

A sampler is an instrument that triggers recorded sounds rather than synthesizing them from simple waveforms, filters or waveguides. Sampling is one of the techniques still widely used in commercial digital keyboards to reproduce the sound of acoustic instruments. Increasingly musicians now curate their samples from a variety of electronic and environmental sources for a given work or performance context.

The Stearnsophone assignment invites students to make a sampler from recordings of a variety of sources in the Stearns collection rather than from a single constituent instrument. Through electronic mediation we create an abstracted instrument whose sounds are indexical to our celebrated collection. In short, we construct an instruments of instruments that allows students to perform a cross section of the Stearns collection’s diverse organological character.

Recording of the Stearnsophone


There are two published catalogues documenting the holdings of the Stearns Collection.  The first is entitled, Catalogue of the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments, and was written by Professor Albert A. Stanley in 1918, with a second edition published in 1921.  Additionally, current Professor and former Chair of Musicology James M. Borders published a catalogue in 1988 entitled European and American Wind and Percussion Instruments:  Catalogue of the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments, University of Michigan. All of the content from both of these catalogues has been incorporated into the searchable online catalogue



Instruments from the collection

Trumpets displayed in case
Trumpet display in the Moore Building

student recording an instrument
A student recording an instrument in the collection

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower