Inside the Yale School of Music and the Instruments from Jane Austen’s Time

Walking onto the Yale campus feels as one has stepped back through time. With its historic and impressive Romanesque-style building (that style so beloved of Gothic writers!), one might expect to see the likes of Fanny Burney or Mary Shelley wandering through the buildings and streets of this illustrious university.

Inside the famed Yale School of Music is the Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments.

Curator Susan Thompson and several graduate students took our group on a fascinating tour of the treasures on display. In the downstairs rooms, we saw beautiful stringed instruments and woodwinds from antiquity to the present. Susan and her team showed us instruments and music from Jane Austen’s time, and we shared with them some of what we had just learned from Lidia Chang’s presentation on musical influences in Jane’s life.

Upstairs, we saw keyboard instruments from three centuries, showing the development of the modern-day harpsichord and piano. Throughout the tour, our guides not only explained the instruments but also played some of them for us. Susan played one of the harpsichords, which had a wonderful sound. We didn’t see a Broadwood grand like the one owned by Colonel Brandon, but one lucky Janeite was allowed to play the Steinway grand (not of Jane’s period, but lovely nonetheless) – she was still at it when we left to go home!

Learn more about this terrific museum online at and don’t miss a chance to visit if you go to New Haven.

 JASNA Member Karen Crane (L) and Curator Susan Thompson (R).

-Michele King