National Music Museum


The Who

So, a long time ago in a state far far away and more years ago than is forgive all font writing and contemporaneous account of I was shown around the very wonderful National Museum of music at the University of South Dakota.

More precisely, I was shown around by a lady who insisted I call her Debbie, but to give her and her institution their full title:

Dr. Deborah Check Reeves, Curator Of Education And Woodwinds, Associate Professor Of Music
Address: National Music Museum
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069

Phone: (605) 677-5306
Fax: (605) 677-6995
Twitter: @NMMUSD

The How

As I was sitting in West Yorkshire and all of the wonderful exhibits were in South Dakota, which according to my slightly demented Amazon Echo is exactly 3 miles from here. No Alexa, it is not. So I consulted the ever dependable Siri and she informed me that I’m exactly 4,143 miles away from these wonderful exhibits as the crow flies. “BUT STUART!” I hear you cry. “How on earth did you see these exhibits given the enormous distance between you and them?” Well,my young Jedi that’s a very good question, and the answer is a combination of the generous hospitality of Doctor Reeves and that amazing telepresence robot called the Beam by SuitableTech.

With these amazing robots I’m not only able to wander around far-flung museums all over the world with wonderful docents showing me things I would never otherwise have been able to see, but I’ve also used them for the odd public speaking engagement and it’s really a transformative experience. Unlike a Skype or Facetime chat which all have their place, because I’m able to move this robot in this remote place the sense of agency is absolutely tremendous. It really does feel like you’re wandering round the museum once you’ve got a handle on how to use the Beam software which only takes about five minutes, and I think with the addition of some sort of virtual reality type goggles which gives me the perspective of the robot it would make it a truly immersive experience which would be amazing.

(I also worked with Professor Jenkins and his team at Brown University, so was able to drop in and just say hello whenever it was convenient, which was just amazing. Occasionally I would forget, login to the Beam and then remember the time zone difference and find myself in an empty laboratory. I did that more times than I’m going to admit. :-) )

The What

I wandered around the museum with Debbie for about an hour and saw more exhibits and I’m able to remember, they have a wonderful collection ranging from a piano that was made around the time that deaf old Beethoven was tinkling the ivories all the way to some wonderful modern guitars. There was also a GIGANTIC pipe organ, no seriously it was absolutely massive. I had to drive backwards so far I nearly bumped into something very expensive. I was struck by what an amazing feat of technical engineering, musical ability and physical skill went into making something like that with the tools they had on hand at the time. And then the fact that people are still able to play it today is just truly wonderful.

If I had to pick a favourite thing I saw during my time in the museum (and I do, everything must be ranked!), it would be a resonator guitar made by the Dubro brothers from Chicago in 1978. With my limited musical knowledge I was unable to comment on how it sounded but I can say that it seemed absolutely huge and the way the light played off the steel, nickel and aluminium it’s composed of as I moved around the exhibit was truly beguiling. I would say however that if you do visit the museum via telepresence you will need to look at this exhibit from a slight angle, otherwise all you will see is a reflection of your face in the guitar. :-)

9/10 Would Recommend to a Friend

But all in all I had a wonderful time at the Museum and would absolutely adore the opportunity to go back whenever they would have me. This post has taken an unforgivably long time to find its way from my drafts folder onto the Internet and that has more to do with my being slack and the random attacks of quadriplegia than my not enjoying the tour. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. It was absolutely wonderful and if you get the opportunity you should definitely go visit the museum.

The only reason I didn’t give this museum 10/10 is because I couldn’t be there in person!

museums, beam, Stuart, music, accessibility, and fun

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