About the Museum
The Basel Historical Museum is in possession of Switzerland’s largest collection of musical instruments, numbering more than 3,000 items. Some 650 of these are permanently on display at the Museum of Music. Housed in a former prison, the museum spreads over three floors and uses the twenty-four former cells as showrooms where visitors can view individual instruments as well as calling up further information and even music samples on an interactive screen.
The section called "Music in Basel" sheds light on the many different musical activities that have been an integral part of life in Basel since the 16th century. The exhibits here range from instruments used only on ceremonial occasions, such as drums and fanfare trumpets, to objects associated with Basel’s many different music societies and Fasnacht festivities. Another cell is devoted to the 20th-century revival of “ancient music”, in which Basel had a leading role to play. On show in the main exhibition space are several historical keyboard instruments that were made, or at least played, in Basel. A number of paintings, among them a large-format allegory of music from the 16th century and two oil paintings by local artist Joseph Esperlin (1757), show scenes of music-making in Basel.