Keyboard Collection Introduction

The ANU Keyboard Institute represents a significant investment and research centre of the School of Music at the Australian National University. Inaugurated in 2005, the ANU Keyboard Institute is an impressive and unique collection of freshly-built copies of historical instruments as well as period instruments, both restored and unrestored. At 48 instruments, it is the largest public playable collection in the southern hemisphere. The Institute can be seen as a reflection of the standards of teaching, research, and performance goals within the School’s keyboard area. The Keyboard Institute is the largest growing keyboard collection in Australia, and the largest public and scholarly resource of historical instruments in Australia. Many of the instruments are not just historically important, but are also important to Australia’s cultural history as well as that of the Australian Capital Territory.

Several of the instruments of the collection were donated to the School of Music following its commencement in 1965. However, the ANU Keyboard Institute only seriously begun in 2005 through the efforts of Dr Geoffrey Lancaster. As part of this initiative, Dr Lancaster commissioned several key instruments within the collection, including the invaluable replicas built by Paul McNulty. Dr Lancaster was key in creating a national public awareness about the Institute. As a result, many Australians contacted Dr Lancaster and the School in order to offer for donation interesting and unique instruments that they had collected or had in their family for many years. Dr Lancaster travelled extensively along the east coast from 2003 to 2011 investigating viable keyboards in order to create a historically representative collection.

The ANU Keyboard Institute was officially launched and opened to the public in 2005 by Dr Lancaster. The event was commemorated with performances by Geoffrey Tozer (Australian pianist and composer); Stephen McIntyre (Australian pianist); John Luxton (then-Head of Keyboard at the School of Music) and Dr Lancaster. There was also a showcase of twelve instruments from the collection performing the Overture to Mozart’s Magic Flute, conducted by Thomas Laue.

All the instruments were collected with the intention that they would be played and studied by students at the School, as well as by visiting artists. Since its official launch in 2005, the ANU Keyboard Institute has been an important part of the School’s community, and an important asset for keyboard performance students, and composition students. The ANU Keyboard Institute is not configured as a museum, even if some historically important instruments will remain in their original state. Rather, the collection aspires to be central in practice-led research and historically-informed performance practice. Progressively, the ANU Keyboard Institute aspires to provide a context for research into issues arising from the un-notated or otherwise cryptic conventions of performance and notation that appear to have been prevalent among knowledgeable performers and composers of the time by allowing us access to the instruments with which those musicians were most familiar with.

The collection continues to grow each year. The School of Music pledges to continue to expand and develop the ANU Keyboard Institute, and endeavours to preserve and maintain those instruments capable or worthy of restoration to performance standard. Donations of instruments, or financial donations towards preserving and maintaining the collection, are most welcomed by the School.

If you would like to know more about the collection, donate an instrument, or become involved with the maintenance and upkeep of any of the instruments or the Institute, please contact the School of Music for further information via email at

Updated:  12 June 2013/Responsible Officer:  Head, School of Music/Page Contact:  Development Officer