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My interest in antique musical instruments was already woken when I was a child. When I was 10 years old, my mother had to be hospitalized for a while. During these days, a very friendly house help was looking after my younger sister and me. One day, on a school afternoon off, she had an idea to take us to a thrift shop (Brockenhaus). That was a very interesting experience for me. It was a windup gramophone, which fancied me, so our friendly house help bought it for me for 5 Swiss francs. From that day on, the windup gramophone was everything to me. My mother wasn't really that happy but I couldn't stop buying further instruments. Very soon, there were radios and old gramophones in my room which I always got for free, since I could be persuasive. Then, at the age of 15, I had more pocket money, that’s why I bought my first horn gramophone at the Zurich Flea Market. This one as well my first windup gramophone is still a part of my current collection.

Then there was my first mechanical musical instrument which I got when I was 32 years old and which my mother still had a trouble with. It was a mechanical piano which came from a heritage of a very far relative of my mother. I couldn't stop bothering her until she found out that really nobody of heirs was interested in that piano but me. This is how my collection of mechanical musical instruments started.

I couldn't resist an offer of a friend of mine to buy five meters wide and three meters high Decap dancing organ, while our house in Switzerland was almost exploding due to lack of space. So the question: where should I put this huge organ? Luckily, we had a big barn in our house. So the organ was put on the hayloft for a while. Immediately after that, I started to expand the barn and so we could start our private museum before the winter came. But the space became more a problem: the aisles between the instruments became tighter and so few years later, we reconstructed the attic of our house.

During all these years, I extended my know-how and I got to know many friends, collectors, restorers and dealers from all over the Europe. In 2005, I was chosen for the president of Swiss Mechanical Music Society. I occupied this position until our move to Hungary in 2010. What seemed to be impossible in Switzerland (mostly because of the financial and job issues), became possible in Hungary: our dream to start a public museum came true. And I have to say that it all wouldn't be possible without a big support of my wife. My wife is Russian and she made herself familiar with the mechanical music after our wedding in 2002. She also made some research about the history of mechanical music in Russia and West Europe which was and still is unpopular and unknown there. Let's say, she almost rewrote the history of the mechanical music after publishing articles in magazines in this matter.

Hansjörg Surber