Music & Musical Instruments

The Museum's music collections contain more than 5,000 instruments of American and European heritage. These include a quartet of 18th-century Stradivari stringed instruments, Tito Puente's autographed timbales, and the Yellow Cloud guitar that belonged to Prince, to name only a few. Several of these rare instruments can be heard in performances of the Smithsonian Chamber Players and in other public programs. Music collections also include jukeboxes and synthesizers, square-dancing outfits and sheet music, archival materials, oral histories, and recordings of performances at the Museum. The vast Sam DeVincent Collection of Illustrated Sheet Music is a remarkable window into the American past in words, music, and visual imagery. The Duke Ellington and Ruth Ellington Boatwright collections contain handwritten music compositions, sound recordings, business records, and other materials documenting the career of this renowned musician.