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Study and conservation of the Ruckers instruments of the mim

The mim collection of harpsichords and virginals comprises eighteen instruments with the Ruckers signature. The Ruckers family were to the harpsichord what Stradivarius was to the violin (Grant O'Brien, Ruckers. A harpsichord and virginal building tradition, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 1).

These eighteen instruments constitute the most important collection of Ruckers instruments in the world. They form a testimony to the extreme skill of Flemish musical instrument makers. Indeed, from the late sixteenth century onward one name dominates all harpsichord making in Northern Europe: Ruckers. Their influence was extensive and their fame considerable, even outside Europe, and also long after their period of activity.

Baillet Latour FundGiven the major importance of the mim's eighteen Ruckers instruments, a project aiming at their conservation, study, restoration and valorization was instigated. It responded to a call for projects on the 'Preservation of the artistic heritage of Belgium', an action programme promoting the safeguard  and conservation of important elements of the Belgian furniture patrimony, launched by the King Baudouin Foundation.  The project could be started thanks to a first grant of 60,000 € by the Baillet Latour Foundation.

The Ruckers project is directed by Pascale Vandervellen.
She can be contacted via this form or via +32 2 545 01 48.

The main objectives of the project

Study

Despite their value, the eighteen signed Ruckers instruments in the mim haven't been the object of comprehensive study so far. In a first phase, the project will focus on the scientific documentation of each instrument, involving traditional examination and measurements, as well as X-rays, CAT scans, dendrochronology of the sound boards, analysis of  printed paper, analysis of  pigments and mediums used on the painted surfaces, stratigraphic sections, infrared images and ultraviolet examination. The results of these analyses and their comparison with other extant Ruckers instruments in public and private collections, will enrich the actual organological knowledge in a significant and pioneering way.

Restoration

The project's second phase aims to restore the eighteen instruments. This involves consolidating their material, as well as clarifying and harmonizing their esthetic state.  Certain instruments have an 18th or even 19th century decoration. However, the original decoration - most often consisting of printed paper - is sometimes still present under the paint layer(s), at least partially. The question arises if the present decoration should be preserved, or if a return to a previous stage or even the original state should be envisaged. Conscious decisions can only be based on the results of the analyses made in the study phase.

Valorization

This heritage, its study and proposed restoration deserve to be suitably recognized. On their restoration the instruments will be on display on rotation in the permanent exhibition room. Moreover, the mim wishes to realize a publication on all aspects of the project.