The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection

Guinness Collection

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.

Learn more about two key pieces in the collection:

  • Pierrot Ecrivain Automaton by G. Vichy, Paris, France, c1895.  See the video
  • B.A. Bremond, “Orchestre Complet”, Interchangeable cylinder musical box – 1867 – See the video


Guinness Workshop Reopening and Extended Demonstrations 
Starting Wednesday, May 11, 2022 at 2 pm
The Guinness Workshop reopens to the public with newly reinstated daily demonstrations. Explore the history of mechanical musical instruments in an interactive setting. Click here for more details.

A Cache of Kinetic Art:
Timeless Movements (March 18, 2022 – August 28, 2022)

The final juried exhibition from the Cache 4-year series promises to be the most “moving” one of all! With a focus on contemporary interpretations of 19th century mechanical music, automata, and the art of timekeeping, this exhibition fully embraces advances in both machine and digital technology. Juxtaposing the technical ingenuity and functionality of a bygone era, this exhibition encourages innovative engineering, design, and imagination of present-day artisans to demonstrate their differing perceptions of time and space.

Rachelle Weir, Hat Ride, 2018. Wood, found objects. Photo courtesy of the artist.

A Cache of Kinetic Art:
Tiny Intricacies (March 13, 2020 – December 27, 2020)

The contemporary mechanical works in Tiny Intricacies may be small in size but they are designed to delight and surprise. Some of the works are traditional in their construction using materials such as wood, metal, and paint; others reflect more technological advancements, predominantly engineered utilizing electronic components.

Get more details.

David Bowman,The Baron and the Moon the Battle Dragon. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The Adventures of Baron von Steubon and Cromwell: A Kinetic Tale by David Bowman
November 14, 2019 – March 1, 2020

David Bowman’s storybook The Adventures of Baron von Steubon and Cromwell springs to life in this series of 18 mechanical vignettes. These kinetic sculptures tell the story of two automatons and their exciting journey on land, at sea, in the air, and back to the past as they encounter fantastical mechanized beasts in their quest for long-lost family and treasure.

More details about this past exhibition.

“A Cache of Kinetic Art” Logo by Sarah Gonzalez.

A Cache of Kinetic Art:
Simply Steampunk
March 15, 2019 – August 11, 2019

Simply Steampunk is the second installment of our four-year exhibition series, A Cache of Kinetic Art, exploring kineticism in contemporary artistic practice. Only fully appreciated when set in motion, these imaginative works capture the wondrous vision of a world powered by steam-engine technology from a bygone era. Combining 19th-century machine aesthetics with creative expression, engineering, and design, the interactive sculptures and installations in Simply Steampunk delight the senses with amazement, luminosity, sound, and movement.

Fore more details, please visit

See the exhibition on the PBS program, State of the Arts, produced by Eric Schultz of PCK Media.

Leadership support for this exhibition is provided by our partners at M&T Bank.

A Cache of Kinetic Art:
Curious Characters
March 16 – June 20, 2018

A four-year exhibition series featuring a variety of themes – A Cache of Kinetic Art, debuted in March 2018.

Curious Characters, the initial installment in this series, focused on distinctive figural forms, from traditional to abstract. It highlighted the creative energy and animation of kineticism, featuring artistic interpretations by present-day artisans who fused new design with innovative use of traditional and contemporary media.

See a video of the artwork that was in this exhibition.

See the video feature by Discover Jersey Arts.

The Guinness Collection in the News

The conservator of the collection, Jeremie Ryder, speaks to WMBC-TV about Murtogh’s Music Room, part of the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Guinness Gallery in 2017.

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 mechanical 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.

Collection Highlights


Harmoniphone Program Card. Photo by Jere Ryder.

Mysterious Melodies of Madama Butterfly

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.

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

“Buffet Magique” or The Magic Cupboard  Automaton by G. Vichy/Triboulet, c.1900

Tightrope Dancer with Musicians Automaton by Phalibois or Cruchet, c.1875

“Floutiste”, Life-size Flute Player, Automaton by A. Théroude, c.1869-77

“Maid Dusting Portrait,” Automaton by Louis Renou, c.1900

“Clown Illusionist” or Clown Magician, Automaton by Phalibois, c.1895

“Méphistophélès”, Automaton, by Leopold Lambert, c.1886-1900

Poppers “REX” Orchestrion, by Popper & Co., c.1915

Home Music Box, Reed Organette, The Autophone Co., Ithaca, NY., 1908 Photo by Ed Watkins. 2003.18.216ab

”Home Music Box,” Reed Organette, The Autophone Co., Ithaca, NY., 1908
Performing: “The Arkansas Traveler”
(c.1847-50), attributed to Colonel Sanford C. Faulkner, Jose Tosso or Mose Case (?)


“Organocleide” Cylinder Musical Box, Moulinié, Geneva, Switzerland, c.1855
 Performing “Guillaume Tell Chorus” by G. Rossini (1824-29)

“Orchestrophone” Fairground Organ, c.1910
Limonaire Frères, Paris, France

“Orchestrophone” Fairground Organ, Limonaire Frères, Paris, France, c.1914.
Playing Echo de la Butte, Scottische – Lucien Brue.

“Sublima Corona, Style No. 32”, coin-operated disc musical box, c.1899
Regina Music Box Co., Rahway, New Jersey, USA

“Sublima Corona” Style 32, coin-operated Disc Musical Box, Regina Music Box Co., Rahway, New Jersey, c.1899
Performing: “Wedding Bells Rag” by Al B. Coney (1910)

Guinness Collection Ringtones


Poppers Rex, Indian Love Call, c. 1923

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Limonaire Orchestrophone, Revez Mignon Waltz, c. 1914

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Musical Necessaire c.1825

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Mills Violano Virtuoso, St. Louis Blues, c.1925

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