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National Music Museum Goes Electric this Fall with First Temporary Exhibition

Electric Hawaiian guitar by National Dobro Corporation, Chicago, ca. 1938. New Yorker model. Board of Trustees purchase, 1999. NMM 6758. Photo by Bill Willroth, Sr. Electric Hawaiian guitar by National Dobro Corporation, Chicago, ca. 1938. New Yorker model. Board of Trustees purchase, 1999. NMM 6758. Photo by Bill Willroth, Sr.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The National Music Museum (NMM) will open its doors this fall with the launch of its first temporary exhibit, “NMM Goes Electric,” in the Groves Gallery of the newly constructed Lillibridge Wing, located on the west end of the museum’s Carnegie Library building. Set to open on Oct. 1, this all-electric exhibit will be free and open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. between Oct. 1 and Dec. 13.

“Even though the NMM’s permanent galleries are still in the process of development, we simply could not wait any longer to let everyone into our beautiful new facility,” Arian Sheets, NMM’s curator of stringed instruments, said. “Temporary exhibits in the new Groves Gallery will allow us to enhance our public programming and share more of our collections and enlightening stories.”

“NMM Goes Electric” showcases a variety of electric stringed instruments from the NMM’s permanent collections, including many that have never previously been highlighted. The exhibition explores the following eight main themes.

  • “Early Days” peers into the past with some of the earliest electric stringed instruments brought to market in the 1930s, some of which have pivotal roles in the development of their types.
  • “Going Low” focuses on electric basses, which posed their own challenges for electrification.
  • “The Classics” will illuminate some of the NMM’s most celebrated vintage electric guitars.
  • “Eddie Peabody and the Banjoline” spotlights one of the most fascinating and successful virtuoso banjo players and the electric instruments he created with major American manufacturers.
  • “Electric Guitars Behind the Iron Curtain” uncovers the little-known history of the Jolana company of Czechoslovakia that produced electric guitars during the communist period.
  • “The Electric Guitar Heads to East Asia” examines the gradual migration of electric guitar manufacturing eastward, from early manufacturing in post-war Japan, to a Vietnamese guitar made for an American serviceman, to Fender’s Japanese division, and then to China, with a beautifully sleek, hardwood electric ukulele.
  • “The Independents” shines light on the work of smaller American companies, some defunct, and others thriving.
  • “Digital Revolution” explores the use of computers with guitars, as MIDI technology challenges the definition of a musical instrument.

“Visitors can expect this galvanizing exhibition to illuminate both the fusion of electricity with acoustic musical instruments, as well as the introduction of powerful and dynamic new forms favored both by celebrities and their fans,” said Margaret Banks, Ph.D., NMM senior curator and associate director.

In addition to the temporary exhibition, the NMM museum store and NMM Live! concert series will also be in full swing this fall. More information can be found on the NMM Facebook page or online at


The National Music Museum (NMM) located on the campus of the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota, is one of the world’s finest collection of musical instruments, with some 15,000 items in its holdings. The NMM owns some of the most historically significant musical instruments in existence. Founded in 1973, the National Music Museum Inc. is a non-profit entity in partnership with USD.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News