New home sought for Scottish accordion collection

A Scots accordion collector is looking to find a new home for her vast collection.

Caroline Hunt, originally from Selkirk and now living in the Highlands, is the founder of the Antique Accordion Museum, but the closure of its previous home means she now needs to find a new home for the musical instruments.

Her collection began in 2000 when she was made redundant, and already having some antique accordions, went out to Castelfidardo in Italy, and returned home, inspired by their accordion museum Museo Internazionale della Fisarmonic).

As there was nothing similar in the UK, and she had another job lined up, Caroline decided to spend her redundancy on old accordions.

Caroline said: ‘Scotland is known worldwide for its music and I am sure something similar work equally as well for music, I have a collection of over 300 rare and interesting antique accordions, which for a few years were a popular attraction in a museum at Bogbain Farm near Inverness. Members of Runrig even had a tune on some of the accordions!

‘One of the early Russian accordions was used in the film Anna Karenena with Jude Law and Kiera Knightly and a couple of others featured in the TV series Monarch of the Glen.

‘Unfortunately the museum closed when the owners of Bogbain closed their heritage centre and I don’t have sufficient funds to purchase my own building.

A diatonic button accordion made by Paolo Soprani in the 1920s. Paolo Soprani founded the Italian accordion industry in Castelfidardo in 1863

‘Since then, three other potential places never came to fruition. One was a town wanting to set up a community museum but insufficient funds meant they could not compete with a developer for the building they wanted.

‘Early in 2021 I was told of a castle being restored, in an excellent location, and that they might be interested in having the collection in an extension due to be built.

‘It sounded perfect but I was recently told that the castle restoration wasn’t due for completion until 2024 and the extension would not be built for several years. It was never my plan for the instruments to be kept in storage for several years.’

Caroline hopes that a private venue might be interested in playing host to her vast accordion collection.

She explained: ‘Covid has affected many businesses. It is clearly not an easy time for many people but maybe someone would now appreciate an additional tourist attraction? A stately home or hotel perhaps? Somewhere who might like to become a renowned music venue?

‘Perhaps something along the lines of the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey, which has a wonderful reputation as a place for visitors interested in Scottish Wildlife. People travel from all over the UK and abroad for their wildlife tours, talks and exhibition. ‘

The collection was based the accordion museum in Castelfidardo.

A Uniform Keyboard, made in America and patented by John Reuther. In the 1950s The Jimmy Blair Orchestra in Glasgow imported and played these

Caroline continued: ‘Mine, like theirs, consists of instruments from all over the world, dating back to the early 1800s, many with beautiful brass, wood, mother of pearl or enamel inlay, some with double keyboards, some with bells, some with trumpet attachments – not your average accordions!

‘Two other museums, one in Italy, have said they would love this collection but I would like it to remain in Scotland and preferably in a community which could benefit from an additional attraction, bringing visitors who would probably also require food and accommodation.

‘Somewhere near public transport if possible and also with car parking and disabled facilities nearby.

‘My preference is somewhere in the Highlands or islands, somewhere near the coast where I could move to would be lovely but I am open to suggestions.

‘My knowledge is specifically accordions but I am very happy to also work with bagpipe and fiddle players to include information on bagpipes and fiddles.’

Further details can be seen on her website www.antiqueaccordions.com – where some instruments can be seen and heard being played by visitors- or email Caroline directly on antiqueaccordions@gmail.com.