Hidden Treasures of the H Collections

A collage image of 5 artefacts from left to right: dancing lesson etchings, Yueqin (wooden string instrument), old photograph of you women dressed in opera costume with large hat and feather (Mary Garden), pencil sketch of a women in opera costume (Hilde Gueden) and black presentation Baton from August Manns.
Discover unique treasures from the H Museum and Library collections. Featuring long unseen artworks, historic manuscripts, and unusual and ingenious musical instruments, this exhibition shares rarely seen objects and stories hand-picked from the thousands of objects and stories from the H's internationally outstanding collections.

Highlights include rarely seen items from the personal collection of opera singer Mary Garden, and rare prints from the former collection of Christopher Hogwood CBE. Instruments from the Royal Collections will be displayed, as well as items celebrating the musical connections between the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the Crystal Palace.

This special exhibition ran from 6 June 2023 - 5 May 2024.

The Dancing Lesson

This is one of a series of coloured etchings by George Cruikshank (1792-1878), who is perhaps best known as a friend and illustrator for Charles Dickens. The series depicts children learning dance steps from a dancing teacher. Learners would memorise their steps whilst hearing popular tunes such as ‘The Sailor’s Hornpipe’, played on a small violin called a ‘kit’ or ‘pochette’ - much like the examples displayed in our Museum.

Photograph of Mary Garden

Mary Garden (1874-1967) was one of the most famous opera singers of her era. Born in Scotland, her early vocal training was undertaken after her family moved to the United States in 1883. Mary Garden’s early success as a singer led her to join the Opéra-Comique in 1900. In 1902, she premiered the role of Mélisande in Claude Debussy’s only completed opera Pelléas et Mélisande.

Drawing of Hilde Gueden

Milein Cosman’s portraits, drawn in 1947 at the Vienna State Opera season at Covent Garden, represent some of the most important musical performers of the era, following the cultural devastation of Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Yueqin (stringed instrument) from China

This instrument was acquired by George IV in 1804, as part of a collection of miscellaneous objects illustrative of Chinese life and customs. They were brought from the ancient city of Guangzhou, a major terminus on the maritime Silk Road, by Dr. J.J. Garrett. Several extraordinary objects were brought to London by Garrett and can be found today in public collections, providing evidence of the intense trade relationship that existed between Britain and China at the beginning of the 19th century.

Presentation baton belonging to August Manns

August Manns came to England from Germany in 1854 and served as conductor at the Crystal Palace for over 45 years. As well as introducing works by German composers such as Schumann and Schubert to local audiences, he devoted programmes to living English composers. His support for the likes of Edward Elgar and Arthur Sullivan held a lasting influence on British musical life into the early 20th century.

Past Exhibitions

Hidden Treasures is the H Museum’s annual exhibition, highlighting some of the most fascinating and unique artefacts from our collection. The previous exhibition ran from 23 January to 18 December 2022, and among the highlights of the exhibition were the personal items from the collection of H alumnus Samuel Coleridge Taylor, the earliest known portrait of Franz Liszt and Edward Elgar's trombone, made by Boosey & Co in 1875.

Opening times

  • Tuesday–Friday: 10.15am-5.45pm
  • Saturday–Sunday: 11am-6pm
  • Last entry will be 30 minutes before closing time.
  • Closed on Mondays

Book your ticket online or just turn up on the day.

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