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The Sibelius Museum in Turku, Finland, was founded in 1926 when Otto Andersson (1879-1969) was appointed the first Professor of Musicology and Folklore at Abo Akademi University, the only Swedish-language university in Finland. Professor Andersson started to collect material about musicology and the history of music, including sheet music, musical instruments, letters, and pictures for his seminar library. This is how "The Collections of Musical History at Abo Akademi University", as they were called until 1949, were born.

In the mid-1940s, Otto Andersson arranged for a Sibelius exhibition, which the press wrote about as the "Sibelius Museum" exhibition. After this, Professor Andersson and the director of Abo Akademi University approached Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), asking for his permission to name the collections "The Sibelius Museum". In a letter dated 1949, Sibelius gave his answer: "With great pleasure will I permit the collections to be named after me". This is how and why in 1949, the collection changed its name to the Sibelius Museum.

From the beginning, Andersson's goal was "to build a musical instrument collection together with a library and thereby, also in our country [Finland], create a music museum as is done in other countries" (1).

At first, the museum was housed in several different buildings on the university campus, but since the inauguration of the new building in 1968, the Sibelius Museum has been situated on Piispankatu 17 in Turku. The architect Woldemar Baeckman (1911-1994), who also has designed many other buildings on the Abo Akademi University campus, designed the museum building. The building includes two floors with a concert hall, archive, and museum administration.

The Sibelius Museum remains a part of Abo Akademi University, which also provides the museum with funding. However, the Abo Akademi University Foundation SR owns the museum and collections and it provides the main portion of the funding. The Sibelius Museum is governed by the Abo Akademi University Library and works together with both the University Library and the Abo Akademi Institute for Maritime History.

The Sibelius Museum's mission is to collect, to look after, and to take care of its holdings, as well as to conduct research about instruments and materials connected with the creative art and artists of music, both from yesterday and today, with the emphasis on Finland and especially on the Swedish-speaking parts of the country. Further, the Sibelius Museum promotes knowledge about Jean Sibelius, his music and his person, his position as national composer in Finland, as well as his position in the rest of the world. As such, it is necessary to keep in contact with institutions and organisations in the field of music, museums, and archives. The museum serves the academic research and the academic education communities. In addition, it must organise exhibitions and concerts, and be of use for the public.

In collecting musical instruments, the Sibelius Museum strives to secure those instruments built by Finnish builders and materials concerning musical events in Finland, as well as endeavouring to acquire objects that are missing from the collections.

The Instrument Collection

Ship owner Curt Mattson formed the basis for the present music instrument collection, consisting of 2,000 items, when he donated the first drums from India in 1928. The following year he gave 30,000 Finnish marks for the purchase of thirty musical instruments from Berlin. Since then the collection has constantly been growing. Today the collection consists of instruments from both Finnish instrument builders and interesting instruments made by builders from other countries.

The emphasis on Finnish instruments dates from the Museum's beginnings, as it was of interest to Otto Andersson who wrote his thesis about the bowed-harp (2). Also notable is the history and inventory of Finnish keyboard instrument building before 1900, including a description by Fabian Dahlstrom of the Finnish keyboard collection in the Sibelius Museum (3). The Sibelius Museum holds a large collection of square pianos, for example by builders such as Olof Granfelt (Turku), Johan Kjellstrom (Turku), Henric Blomqvist (Porvoo), and Erik Gustaf Granholm (Helsinki).

The Finnish national instrument, kantele, is also well represented. At present, the collection includes sixty instruments made by various builders mostly from Finland. The psalmodikon is also one of the most frequent instruments found in the collection. The oldest known violin built in Finland was built in 1796 in Turku by Johan Lindstrom and can be found in the Sibelius Museum collection. A pianoforte from 1805 with Viennese action by Nannette Streicher (nee Stein), is a rare instrument among the exhibited objects.

Most of the instruments were donated to the museum. The large private collection of composer Erik Bergman (1911-2006), including over 200 instruments from all over the world--mainly Asia and Africa--was donated to the museum as a complete instrument collection.

The collection also includes violin-building tools, different kinds of percussion instruments, conductors' batons, organs, synthesisers, and grand pianos from different periods.

Archival Collections

The library of the Department of Musicology and Folklore at Abo Akademi University and Otto Andersson's private library provide the foundation for the archival collections. The archive now shelves over 1,300 metres of music materials, from manuscripts and sheet music to posters and concert programs, covering a period of 225 years. The archive contains music manuscripts to over 8,000 compositions, including those of Fredrik Pacius (1809-1891), composer of the Finnish National Anthem, and modern Finnish composers. The archive contains thousands of letters written by singers, composers, and conductors as well as handwritten music books from the eighteenth century on. These music books were written for a special instrument or contain music for a specific genre. The collection includes more than 20,000 photographs of individuals, orchestras, choirs, groups, and festivals, as well as around 18,500 sound recordings from different eras; phonograph cylinders, reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, 78 rpm, 33 1/3 rpm, and 45 rpm vinyl records as well as CDs.

The press archive occupies more than 200 metres of shelving. Since the beginning, the museum has continuously collected musical articles and reviews from Finnish newspapers. The oldest press clippings date from the 1870s. In the press archive, information about Finnish and foreign musicians and artists, as well as about popular, rock, folk, and sacred music can be found, and also articles about song festivals and instruments, orchestras, musical societies, and choirs. From 2010 on, the collection of newspaper clippings is restricted to articles about the Sibelius Museum, Jean Sibelius, and events concerning the museum and its mission.

The archive also includes a number of special collections, for example, the Music Library of the Musical Society of Turku, founded in 1790, which is the oldest society in Finland (4). This Society laid the foundation for orchestral life in Finland. Its archive contains both sheet music from the 1780s, also found in RISM, and later sheet music as well as the handwritten rules from the Society's founding in 1790. In 1970, the Musical Society of Turku founded Ruisrock (5), the second oldest rock festival in Europe, and in 1972, the Turku National Cello Competition (6). Information about these is also available in the special archive of the Society. Other special collections are, for example, those of Otto Andersson, composer Erik Bergman, and different song and music organisations.

Jean Sibelius Collection

The Jean Sibelius Collection is perhaps the most well known in the Sibelius Museum. In the early-1930s, the Sibelius material owned by Abo Akademi University was made part of the collection. Included was, among other material, the autograph manuscript for the cantata Jordens sang (Song of the Earth), written by Sibelius for the inauguration of the University in 1919. In addition, a number of manuscripts of Sibelius's works owned by the writer Adolf Paul (1863-1943) were acquired for the collection. Today the Sibelius Museum owns over fifty of Sibelius' manuscripts, including sketches and fragments. The Sibelius Collection contains approximately 3,000 items of sheet music, letters, concert programs, Finnish and foreign paper clippings, and articles. There is also a reference library with literature on Sibelius in different languages.

The archival collections are to some extent searchable in the Finna database (7). Still, some materials are searchable only on-site in the card catalogue. Not found in any catalogue are the press archive, concert programmes, and non-Finnish sheet music.


All the exhibitions in the Sibelius Museum are reflections of the institution's own collections. The museum is on two floors and always has two main exhibitions, one about musical instruments and the other about the composer, Jean Sibelius. The instrument exhibition presents the music of Finland from both an historical and a wider cultural perspective, while the history of Finnish art music, with Turku as a centre, takes its description from a local point of view. The exhibition shows both the development of different types of musical instruments, folk music items, and amplification devices. Also part of the exhibition is the large collection of Finnish keyboard instruments, as well as non-European instruments.

Increasing the awareness and knowledge of Jean Sibelius is an important task for the museum. That is why the other exhibition is about the composer, his music, and his life. This exhibition tells his story through different items, manuscripts, handwritten documents, sheet music, sculptures, photos, and music from the collection of the Sibelius Museum. Sibelius's life and family are presented, as well as the work of composing, the artist, the idol, and Sibelius as a national symbol.

The museum produces at least one temporary exhibition with a different theme each year. Over the past several years, for example "Yours sincerely--Jean, Otto & Sibelius Museum" was the jubilee exhibition celebrating Sibelius's 150th birthday in 2015. "Musica Cubana" presented the music of Cuba and "Iceland Sounds & Sagas" exhibited photos, sound recordings, and music materials on Icelandic musical life and popular music. The world of visual arts and classical music intersected in the exhibition "Lingering Note". Different instruments, such as the guitar in "Skitta!" and the synthesiser in "DICO--Finnish and Other Synthesizers" have been presented, while the exhibition "Le Voyage-Travels by Sound, Picture and Space" presented a small part of the Erik Bergman instrument collection.

Concerts and Collaboration

Since 1968, the museum has arranged a series in its concert hall, offering music performed by prominent musicians both from Finland and abroad. The concert series presents around twenty-four concerts per year, with one every Wednesday during the autumn and spring seasons. Not only is classical music featured, it is possible to listen to solo concerts, chamber music, jazz, unplugged, world music, klezmer music, electronic music, or folk music. Over the years, many of the great Finnish artists have given concerts in the Sibelius Museum, including Jorma Hynninen, Okko Kamu, and Kari Kriikku, among many others.

The Sibelius Museum works together with festivals and organisations to arrange concerts, seminars, and conferences. In addition, private organisers can rent the facilities for concerts or receptions.

The Sibelius Museum (8) will continue the mission of collecting music from all over Finland. The museum strives to attract both old and new visitors, to be a part of the international field of music museums and archives, and to be a central player in developing the Finnish national network of music and instrument museums. In 2017, the Sibelius Museum will celebrate Finland's centenary with the exhibition, "Conducting Finland--Conductors as Musical Messengers 1917-2017".

Inger Jakobsson-Warn, attained the MA in musicology in 1987 from Abo Akademi University (Turku, Finland), and received a degree in information science in 2005. From 1985 to 2006, she worked as archivist at the Sibelius Museum Archive. Since 2007, Jakobsson-Warn works as director and curator of the Sibelius Museum whose responsibilities include exhibitions, concerts, and the archive. She also serves on the boards of the Sibelius Society of Finland, the Musical Society of Turku, and the Association of Finnish Music Museums, and is a member of the advisory committee of Finnish Musical Heritage.

(1.) Otto Andersson, Sibeliusmuseum: en orientering: till museets oppnande i dess nya lokal, Biskopsgatan 15, den 29 maj 1952 (Abo: Abo Akademi, 1952).

(2.) Otto Andersson, Strdkharpan: en studie i nordisk instrumenthistoria (Helsingfors: Schildt, 1923), and The Bowed-Harp: A Study in the History of Early Musical Instruments (London: William Reeves, bookseller 1930).

(3.) Fabian Dahlstrom, Finl?ndsk klavertillverkning fore Ar 1900 samt beskrivning av Sibeliusmuseets inhemska klaversamling (Abo: [Abo Akademi. Musikvetenskapliga institutionen]: Sibeliusmuseum [distr.], 1978); online at (accessed 24 March 2017), and "A Short Keyboard History: Finnish Keyboard Building 1460-1900", Finnish Music Quarterly (1988:1): 32-37.

(4.) (accessed 24 March 2017).

(5.) (accessed 24 March 2017).

(6.) (accessed 24 March 2017).

(7.) (accessed 24 March 2017).

(8.) For more information, see (accessed 24 March 2017); on Facebook, Sibeliusmuseum, on Twitter, #sibeliusmuseum, and on Flickr, Archive of the Sibelius Museum.

Caption: Fig. 1. Autograph signature of Jean Sibelius.
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Author:Jakobsson-Warn, Inger
Publication:Fontes Artis Musicae
Date:Apr 1, 2017

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