No one interested in music or other cultures should skip a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum, or “MIM” as we like to call it. Opened in 2010, it holds the title of “the world’s only global musical instrument museum,” and while you really need to see it to get the full scope of what that entails, we’ll do our best to paint a picture.

The two-story museum contains an exhibit for every country in the world. Included with each display are every instrument from that country — the museum contains 16,000 instruments and counting — along with audio and video clips of them in action, plus clothing and other artifacts important to the culture. You will see instruments ranging from simple one-string African kora to the massive multi-piece Indonesian gamelan.

Fun fact: The museum continues to build its collection of instruments, and every new acquisition starts its life at the MIM with a trip to the refrigerator to acclimate it — and to kill any bugs that might be hiding inside.

In addition to country-based exhibits, you can visit areas devoted to music instrument history, such as the evolution of the piano, the rise of the electric guitar or the development of audio recording, along with rooms devoted to rotating exhibits about specific musicians or musical styles.

For the young and young at heart, a room exists with instrument replicas including various drums and stringed-instrument, and a working electronic Theremin, which you can play. You can even hit the large gong — although to save the staff’s sanity they only allow one hit per visitor.

Plan for at least three hours to tour the exhibits, and longer if you really get caught up. If you get hungry during your visit, Café Allegro serves excellent meals and occasionally dishes from other cultures. Speaking of, pay attention to the event calendar because every so often the MIM will host a day dedicated to the music and food of a specific country or region.

For those who live in the area, the MIM boasts a 300-seat theater that sees almost-daily concerts from top-notch musicians. Plus it offers regular play and learning groups for kids.

Location: 4725 E. Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ 85050

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: $20 adult, $15 teens, $10 children 4-12, Free for ages 3 and under.


– Justin Ferris, Phoenix.org