To collect and describe every kind of musical instrument made and played in southern Africa south of the Limpopo; this was the project that Percival R Kirby, the energetic head of the new Music department at Wits University conceived and set about realising in the late 1920s and 1930s. By 1934 Kirby had collected many hundreds of instruments and published his major work, The musical instruments of the native peoples of South Africa. A professor with an eye to pedagogy, he also sought out unusual instruments from Europe and elsewhere, and set up his ‘museum’ at the university. After retirement this collection was loaned to the Africana Museum in Johannesburg from 1954 until the early 1980s, when the University of Cape Town acquired it.


Link to UCT libraries' holdings of the Kirby collection