National guitar exhibit coming to Kalamazoo Valley Museum

KALAMAZOO, MI — Kalamazoo residents are invited to rock out with the National Guitar Museum when its traveling exhibit sets up at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

“GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World” opens Sept. 30 in the downtown museum.

The free exhibit, which runs through Jan. 7, 2018, gives visitors of all ages an interactive, hands-on experience with science, music and history.

Kalamazoo has a special passion for music and especially the guitar because of its history of as the birthplace of Gibson guitars, Kalamazoo Valley Museum Director Bill McElhone said.

“It just made sense for us to do an exhibit that talks about not only the history of the guitar, but because we are a museum of science and history, this exhibit also explores the science of sound, vibration and how sound is produced,” McElhone said.

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The exhibit has three parts: the science of sound; the evolution, engineering and design of the guitar; and its cultural impact.

The exhibit will feature more than 70 guitars, video and computer displays and a playable guitar over 40 feet long, the world’s largest, as certified by the Guinness Book of Records, according to the National Guitar Museum website.

Visitors can expect hands-on STEM interactives demonstrating the science of sound and music including topics such as electromagnetism, sound waves, frequency, decibel levels, engineering, memory and performance.

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The National Guitar Museum’s exhibit first went on the road in 2011. The attraction has traveled to cities across the U.S., including Honolulu, Hawaii. It is booked throughout the states over the next few years, and after the tour is finished, the National Guitar Museum will choose a permanent home for the exhibit.

The museum was founded in 2009 and was originally supposed to be a permanent attraction in New York City, said HP Newquist, founder and executive director of the National Guitar Museum.

Because of the poor economy at the time, the founders decided to create a traveling exhibit instead, Newquist said. In every city visited, the executives speak to city politicians and planners to determine if that location could become the permanent home of the exhibit.

Newquist spoke of the importance of the guitar both in Kalamazoo and the rest of the world throughout history.

“The guitar is the most popular instrument in the world,” Newquist said. “There are more guitars sold than all other instruments combined. The guitar dwarfs them in terms of sheer numbers.”

Newquist said the guitar has a personality and intimacy that other instruments don’t encompass. When the musician holds the guitar close, they feel the sound actually resonate throughout their body, he said. Additionally, the guitar has defined entire genres of music including rock and roll, electric blues and R&B.

“The guitar really is emblematic of the second half of the 20th century,” Newquist said.

The attraction will be open during regular museum hours, which are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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