Eiteljorg Musuem Blog

Your last chance to see and experience Eiteljorg Guitars

by Trey Meehan, Eiteljorg development intern (Butler University) | Jul 29, 2013

This 1930s John Dopyera guitar shows an early effort to electrify the guitar.
Resophonic Electric Dobro, 1934
Loan: Courtesy of Lynn Wheelwright

      After being at the Eiteljorg for the last few months, I realized that I had not completely gone through the museum’s current exhibit: Guitars! Roundups to Rockers. I had described the exhibit to my friends, family and museum guests, but I hadn't yet personally experienced all it had to offer. I don’t want to sit here and describe every piece in the exhibit, but I will give you all my 20-year-old perspective in hope that it will entice your curiosity.

Before I started my tour, I picked up an iPod with headphones from the front desk. Although the tour can be done without an iPod assistant, I would highly recommend everyone choosing the iPod option. This feature allows a patron to access 65 videos on the iPod (3 hours of content) to listen to the corresponding numbered and displayed guitars.

At the start of the exhibit, my eyes gravitated to a case containing acoustic guitars composed of light and dark woods. As I listened on the Ipod to the songs being played on the guitars, I was transported into the time of the music; in this case, the early 19th century.

On the wall to the left hung a large sign informing me that says a precise definition for "guitar" may be impossible. It is simply a family of instruments with vibrating strings. I kept this idea in the back of my head as I wondered through the exhibit. It was as though I was walking through time. The 19th century progressed into the early 20th century. Not only were the times changing, but the people and type of music they were playing were changing, too.

As I progressed through the exhibit, electronic guitars began popping up alongside their acoustic brothers and sisters. I witnessed outfit transformations as musicians and time periods I was familiar with began to appear. I continued to listen to the distinctive eras’ music coming from each of their musicians’ guitars. As I strolled through the cases of guitars I could envision the different musical periods. The Spanish influence that allowed guitars to be integral parts of sacred Catholic mass hymns gives way to later forms of music such as jazz, blues, punk rock, hard rock and many other genres. The exhibit seamlessly shows the passage of years, and musicians from Les Paul to Kurt Cobain.

For a guy who knew pretty much nothing about guitars at the start of my tour of Guitars!, I can confidently say that this is not the case anymore. The exhibit gave me the opportunity to experience such a wide range of guitars from all around the world. I’m certainly grateful for the chance to not only experience Guitars! but being able to give everyone my personal take on it!

The exhibit closes August 4, so hurry up and don’t miss your chance to witness for yourself all of these amazing instruments before they return to their homes.  

Here are a few more of my favorites:

Italian by manufacture, this six-string guitar crafted by the Fabricatore family in the 1790s became popular in Europe and the style then eventually crossed the pond to America.
Fabricator Napoli Guitar, 1793
Loan: Courtesy of Lynn Wheelwright

G&L electric guitar, c. 2002; Courtesy Chris Funk.

Draped in a well-worn leather cover similar to one used by Elvis Presley, this Gibson J-45 commemorates Buddy Holly's 1956 hits “Love Me” and “Blue Days, Black Nights.” 
Gibson J-45 guitar, ca. 1944 with tooled leather cover, mid 1950s 
Loan:  Courtesy of Mike Malone


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