GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World, an exhibit celebrating what is arguably the single most enduring icon in American history, will be on view January 18 through April 21 at the Springfield Museums. GUITAR is sponsored by United Bank, with additional support from Cooley Shrair P.C., Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, and Falcetti Music. Media sponsors of GUITAR are WGBY and WRSI.
This fully immersive exhibition allows visitors to interact with the guitar from a historical perspective, learn about its evolution and design, discover the music that guitars have helped to create, and understand the guitar’s role as an agent of personal freedom, social change, and expression. Featuring guitars from greats like Steve Vai, Johnny Winter, and others, the exhibition includes more than 60 instruments – from the rare and antique to the wildly popular and innovative. There’s even the world’s largest playable guitar (over 43 feet long!), along with performance video and audio, hands-on interactives, touch screens, and photographs.
The exhibit is the official touring presence of The National GUITAR Museum, and is being presented at more than a dozen venues across the United States over the next five years. The GUITAR exhibit will then become the basis of a permanent museum to be established at the end of the tour. “Most people are amazed that there is no museum anywhere dedicated solely to the guitar and its history,” says HP Newquist, executive director and founder of the Museum. “While there are several galleries and private collections in the U.S., there is nothing that explores all aspects of the guitar from its evolution over the course of centuries to its current cultural impact.”
Due to its sheer size and scope, the exhibit is to be divided across two museums. The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum will display guitars through the ages, including early stringed instruments from Persia, Africa, and Europe and close relatives of the guitar from other countries. Examples of instruments reflecting the rise of American craftsmen like C.F. Martin and Orville Gibson are also on display. Electricity brought a seismic change to guitar design, as demonstrated by the inclusion of landmark electrics like George Beauchamp’s famous “Frying Pan” Rickenbacker laptop and Les Paul’s early guitars for Gibson. These early pioneers paved the way for iconic guitar designs like the Stratocaster and the SG which are also given their due at the GWV Smith Museum exhibit.
Next door, the Springfield Science Museum will feature guitars from the 1960’s to the present, including outrageous modern examples like the “Rock Ock”, the world’s only playable 8-necked guitar. There are also extensive interactive exhibits on the science behind guitars and their sound, including the physics of building and playing guitars, how pick-ups and amplifiers transmit signals on electric guitars, and strobe-light displays of vibrations on guitar strings. The centerpiece of this portion of the exhibit is clearly the World’s Largest Playable Guitar, which is a Guinness Book record 43 feet long.
A Family Fun Event to celebrate the opening of GUITAR will take place on Saturday, January 19 from 10 am – 5 pm. Other events scheduled during the exhibit’s run include a talk on Les Paul by Steve Waksman from Smith College and a musical showcase featuring Peter Newland and the Springfield rock band Fat. Guitar students from Falcetti Music will also perform on weekends during the exhibit, and special school tours related to the exhibit will also be available. Complete exhibit details are available online at www.springfieldmuseums.org.
There is a special exhibition fee of $3 for all visitors ages 3 and up to view GUITAR in addition to museum admission.