Explore instruments that “play themselves.”

MIM’s Mechanical Music Gallery features a selection of mechanical musical instruments, such as barrel organs, mechanical zithers, cylinder music boxes, disc players, automatons, and more.

The period between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is known as the Golden Age of Mechanical Music. During this time, there was a surge in the creation of self-playing instruments in Europe and the Americas. In the Mechanical Music Gallery, guests can see a range of instruments from this era that use technologies such as punched cards and discs, paper rolls, pinned cylinders, and electromagnets.

The Golden Age ended as radio, film, and other forms of entertainment became more popular. Despite the passing of time, these machines still speak for themselves, and we can continue to enjoy the world of music they store and play.

Watch: “Apollonia” Orchestrion | Instrument Demonstration

From the late nineteenth century to the 1960s, dance organs were popular in Europe, providing music in dance halls and ballrooms. Hear MIM’s “Apollonia” orchestrion play its own rendition of “Copacabana.”

Watch: Violano Virtuoso | Instrument Demonstration

Designed by Swedish immigrant Henry Sandell, the Violano Virtuoso is an incredible automatic instrument featuring a violin played according to electromagnetic impulses.

More Instrument Demonstrations

Support MIM’s galleries and collection