Murtogh’s Musical Machines

The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection, one of the largest displays of mechanical musical instruments in North America, is one of the Morris Museum’s centerpieces. But who is the namesake of the exhibit, and why was he so interested in automated instruments?

Murtogh Guinness was born in Ireland in 1913 and—as his name suggests—was heir to the Guinness Brewery. Rather than beer, however, Guinness’s passion was for music, particularly the kind made by automated musical instruments and figurines. He collected over 700 of these objects, which lined the walls of his Manhattan home. Guinness would frequently throw parties at his apartment where he would entertain his guests with live demonstrations of his musical collection late into the night.

The Guinness Collection is as much as auditory as a visual experience. Headphones are available throughout the exhibit space for guests to listen to the music created by these intricate and eccentric machines—some manufactured centuries ago—that fascinated Guinness. You can also join us for a live demonstration given daily by our curator at 2:00 pm and experience the awe that Guinness’s guests must have felt upon entering his home and seeing this unique collection for the first time.