The National Museum of Musical Instruments houses about 3,000 pieces from various periods and of different origins, mostly belonging to the vast and heterogeneous collection of Evan Gorga.
Evangelista Gorga was a successful tenor who was chosen by Giacomo Puccini for the role of Rodolfo in the first performance of La Bohème. He retired from the stage in 1899, after a career of only four years, to devote himself exclusively to collecting. Within a few decades he had collected about 150,000 pieces, divided into thirty different collections (archaeological, ancient weapons, pottery, scales, toys and so on), in order to create "the Encyclopedic Museum, containing all knowledge, from the Archaic to the present day", as he himself wrote. Of particular importance was the collection of musical instruments, shown for the first time to the public during the International Exhibition in Rome in 1911. In 1929 the collections were subject to administrative seizure at the request of creditors, and then purchased by the State in 1949, which settled the huge debts incurred by the collector. The musical instruments, which were scattered in various warehouses, were gathered together in Palazzina Samoggia in 1964, where the museum was inaugurated in 1974 with the first exhibition curated by Luisa Cervelli.
The vast collection of the museum, covering a time span of over two thousand years, was further expanded with the acquisition of other collections and rare and precious exhibits. These include the piano built by Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1722 and the seventeenth-century Barberini Harp.