The Museum of Music in Paris possesses a collection of 280 instruments from the twentieth century. Most of them belong to the general families of electric and electronic musical instruments, which we will call ‘electrophones’, in deference to the name chosen by Curt Sachs (1940). The instruments are gathered in families so that the whole collection illustrates the milestones of the twentieth century; for instance, the museum has a large set of diverse Ondes Martenot. However, due to its scarcity, the Trautonium is represented by one of Oscar Sala's Mixtur-Trautonia.
Like any museum, we have to encourage the conservation of this heritage. To maintain a large collection of electrophones like the one we have, a specific knowledge base has to be developed. We have been working on this aspect of the project for the past two years. From the onset, it was decided to start the collection with the Ondes Martenot. Our aim was to define a model approach that could also be applied to other electric and electronic instruments. This work involves organising the instruments, studying them in order to outline conditions of appropriate conservation, and determining which kind(s) of restoration should be undertaken.
A first step has been to gather all information necessary to understanding the instrument and its mode of performance. With this goal in mind, we have taken a complete inventory of our collection with the aim of coming up with a first assessment of the state of the instruments and determining whether to allow performers to play them. Thanks to this work, we were able to start taking precautionary measures against degradation; we are now also able to answer many questions relevant to the restoration and conservation of this collection.