Royal Academy of Music
The Royal Academy of Music in Marylebone Road. The institution refuted suggestions that it would be offloading instruments in its collection. Image: Philafrenzy via Commons Wikimedia

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The Sunday Telegraph reported that the Academy was reviewing its collection and this could lead to it ditching “problematic” musical instruments and artefacts – such as pianos made with colonial ivory and items linked to the composer George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), who invested in the Royal Africa Company which had a prominent role in the Atlantic slave trade.

Works relating to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91), such as portraits and furniture, were also mentioned as possibly coming under scrutiny due to the composer’s father, Leopold, being patronised by wealthy families who were involved in the slave trade while touring the UK.

The Royal Academy of Music, which dates back to 1822, is thought to hold a collection of around 22,000 items relating to the history of music. Alongside instruments such as piano keys and violin fingerboards that may have ivory elements, it holds large numbers of portraits, sculptures, photographs and documents.

A spokesman for the academy told ATG: “The reviews we will be undertaking are concerned solely with the storage of collections onsite and how we interpret items in our collections.

“We will not be disposing of musical instruments based on their provenance or associations.

“Additionally, the Telegraph article stated that we hold a ‘vast collection of manuscripts by the composer Handel’ – we do not, in fact, own any original manuscripts by Handel nor do we hold any which have been loaned to us by a third party.

“We have not removed Handel, or any other composer, from the syllabus. For us, inclusion means widening the net, not cancelling historical figures and artefacts.”

The academy received its royal charter in 1830 from King George IV.