The Hall of Musical Instruments contained priceless classical instruments from the legacy collection of the National Museum of American History. Some have remained highly prized over the past 300 years. Others once enjoyed great popularity, but subsequently fell into disuse. Samples of instruments and music relating to the history, performance styles, and techniques of European and American music and the development of musical instruments were presented. While generally on display, these instruments also are used for performances of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society.
The hall featured:
- instruments made by some of the finest craftsmen of stringed instruments
- the Servais Cello (1701), considered one of the best preserved Stradivarius cellos
- Herbert R. Axelrod Quartet of Decorated Instruments, rare decorated Stradivarius instruments: Violin, the Ole Bull (1687); Viola, the Axelrod (1695); and Violin, the Greffuhle (1709).