Housed within the palace in what used to be a domestic service wing, the permanent exhibition of musical instruments occupies two rooms and represents the most complete collection to date of musical instruments in use in Tunisia. Moreover, it includes the Baron d’Erlanger’s historical personal collection.
He exhibition area comprises two rooms which were named after two important figure of Tunisian music: composer and musician Cheikh Ahmed al-wafi, who was the mentor of the baron in the field of Tunisian music and Manoubi Snoussi who was the baron’s private secretary and continuator of his research project.
The Ahmed el-Wafi room contains a collection of more than 250 musical instruments representing the instrumentarium in use in Tunisia throughout all regions and musical genres. The collection is presented according to the classical division between aerophones (wind instruments), membranophones and idiophones (percussion instruments), and cordophones (string bowed or plucked instruments) .
This collection is the result of a collecting campaign carried out by the CAMM in 1992, covering most of the country and it has since expanded consistently thanks to donations or acquisitions. In this respect, priority is given to instruments having belonged to famous musicians or actors or that represent a particular organological interest, especially with regard to the Tunisian musical world.
Instrument owners are called upon to contribute to enriching this collection. The usual procedure is by way of donation, sale or even loan. In case of a donation or a loan, the name of the donor or lender is systematically mentioned and highlighted in the display area.
The Mannoubi Snoussi room contains around fifteen musical instruments of various origins: Oriental, European and African, which belonged to the Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger’s personal collection for, as attested by iconographic documents found in his personal archives, he was also a collector of musical instruments.
In addition to the instruments displayed in the two rooms another collection of instruments from various origins is stored in the CAMM’s reserves. The latter includes the old collection from the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, donations from private persons or institutions from neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Kuwait Mauritania and Spain.
All these collections can serve to mount special exhibitions. Beside their museographical interest, these collections are extremely valuable in terms of organological research carried out in the CAMM’s instrument making workshop. Moreover, all the instruments in the collection may be put on loan to similar museums so as to be presented in the context of special exhibitions.
A series of photographs is on display in the exhibition area presenting instruments being played as well as photographs of the great figures of Tunisian and Arab music, as a complement to the CAMM’s permanent exhibits.