The collections

The collection of the Museum of Music Automatons

The Museum of Music Automatons owns an extensive collection of Swiss music boxes, disc music boxes, automatons and mechanical instruments. Its archives hold some 10,000 objects including rolls, music rolls and the like.

The majority of the items in the collection are from Switzerland and the neighbouring countries, but there are also pieces from the rest of Europe and the USA. The collection offers a comprehensive overview of the production of music boxes in Switzerland, an industry which flourished for more than a century. The variety of types on display is unique among publicly accessible collections the world over.

Mechanical instruments intended for public use are also well represented, including fairground organs, hurdy-gurdys, orchestrions and railway station automats, installed in public places such as taverns or stations from the middle of the 19th century on. Yet both music boxes and other music automatons were also developed for private use; these include the disc music box and mechanical pianos, which were the status symbols par excellence of the late 19th-century middle-class. Starting at the turn of the century, and especially after World War Two, mechanical automatons were gradually supplanted by other media: phonographs, gramophones and radio replaced mechanical music.

In 2006, the Museum of Music Automatons took over the phonograph and gramophone collection of Kornhaus Burgdorf, and now owns a representative selection of objects in this area, though they are not on permanent display. The collection of the Museum of Music Automatons is significant internationally, and without equal on the domestic front. The intention is for it to continue to grow, guided by a demand for top quality, Swiss provenance and transparent pedigree.

The watch collection of the Swiss National Museum

In addition to its own collection of timepieces and jewellery featuring mechanical music, the Museum of Music Automatons also houses the Confederation's watch collection, which is on permanent loan to Seewen as a Swiss National Museum collection. The Confederation's collection consists primarily of watches and scientific instruments manufactured in Switzerland, though there are also a few examples of foreign-made items produced by Swiss master watchmakers working abroad, such as Abraham-Louis Breguet and Jost Bürgi.

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