Guinness Collection: Mechanical Musical Instruments & Automata

In 2003, the Morris Museum was awarded the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of 750 historic mechanical musical instruments and automata (mechanical figures) and more than 5,000 programmed media, ranging from player piano rolls to pinned cylinders.

As one of the most significant collections of its kind in the world, highlights of the collection are displayed in a spectacular 4,300 square foot permanent exhibition Musical Machines & Living Dolls: Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata from the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection. This interactive exhibition features more than 150 pieces from this extraordinary collection and takes visitors on a journey through the history of on-demand musical entertainment. Viewable storage provides visitors with broader access to the balance of the collection.

Come enjoy our daily demonstrations, Tuesdays through Sundays at 2 p.m.

  • 2003.18.75ab

    “Buffet Magique”
    2003.18.75ab

    Video

  • “Tightrope Dancer”
    2003.18.70a-d

    Video

  • 2003.18.3a-e

    “Limonaire Orchestrophone”
    2003.18.3

    Audio

  • “Flute Player”
    2003.18.74a-d

    Video

  • 2005.18a-g

    “Regina Sublima Corona”
    2005.18a-g

    Audio

  • “Maid Dusting Portrait”
    2003.18.22ab

    Video

  • 2003.18.21ab without head -print

    “Clown Illusionist”
    2003.18.21ab

    Video

  • “Mephistopheles” 2003.18.30a-d

    Video

  • 2003.18.216ab

    “Home Music Box” Organette
    2003.18.216ab

    Audio

  • “Organocleide” Cylinder Musical Box 2003.18.242a-e

    Audio

The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection: A Life’s Work

The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection reflects the passion of its namesake for preserving and sharing the joys of antique mechanical musical instruments and automata. Murtogh D. Guinness (1913-2002) regarded the collection as his life’s work, and he persistently traveled the globe to search for the finest surviving instruments of their kind. He lived day-to-day with these devices, studying and refining for over 50 years what became a collection of 750 objects.

Virtually every category of mechanice musical instruments and automata from the late 16th century through the early 20th century is represented in the Murtogh D. Guinness collection, which was awarded to the Morris Museum in 2003. At the core are cylinder and disc music boxes. Made in Switzerland and France beginning in the late 18th century, cylinder music boxes stand as living documents of the arias, overtures and waltzes of the time. The disc music boxes of the late 19th century show a shift to a broader audience and to more popular music. In the 1890s, disc box production expanded from Germany to Switzerland and also to the United States, where New Jersey became the home of American music box production. The collection includes numerous instruments made in Jersey City, Rahway and Bradley Beach.

Like the mechanical musical instruments in the collection, the musical, French-made automata represent a broad array of styles. Snake charmers, magicians, singing birds, and other figures in the Murtogh D. Guinness collection showcase the talents of their makers and constitute one of the largest public holdings of automata in the United States.

Mysterious Melodies of Madama Butterfly

"Harmoniphone" Program Card

“Harmoniphone” Program Card

Discover the music box in the Morris Museum’s Guinness Collection that is deemed the Rosetta Stone for the origins of melodies in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Launch to “State of the Arts” TV program

Audio clips:

1 – Sinfa/Mo-li-hua 2 – Chum Chie Lin 3 – Poutzi/Banzi/Pantse

4 – Loe Tee Kun Stin 5 – Shanghai mody 6 – She pah moh/Shiba-mo