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Orlando exhibit shows the history, science and influence of the guitar

Contributing Writer

Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 19:08


Adrienne Cutway/Central Florida Future

At the center of the exhibit is the world’s largest playable guitar. The Gibson Flying V is 43.5 feet long, 16 feet wide and weighs 2,244 pounds, or the same as a small car. The guitar won the Guinness World Record in 2001.


Adrienne Cutway/Central Florida Future

The exhibit features both acoustic and electric guitars from around the world.

The musical timeline stretches and winds throughout the room in the form of ancient, memorable and modern guitars, dating back all the way to 3,000 B.C. — a tangible and once-in-a-lifetime visual that is not easily forgotten.

The Orlando Science Center has been most elated to house the very first and premier showing of The National GUITAR Museum's touring exhibition, "GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World."

For more photos, view the gallery here.

Who would have thought there weren't any guitar museums in America to be found until Harvey P. Newquist made the big step to change that in just August 2010? Apparently, he was more than surprised that no one had created an opportunity to learn and appreciate the developing history and science of the guitar, along with what has made it one of the most iconic symbols of America throughout history.

"He had some buddies over at his house one night, and they were just hanging out, having a barbeque and a few sodas," said Doug Johnson, the exhibition director. "Someone pointed out to him that his house looked like a guitar museum. They started talking about it, wondering if there even was a guitar museum, and Harvey thought, ‘There has to be. It's such an obvious thing; it's such an American icon.'"

It wasn't until Newquist went to great lengths of research that he discovered there was, in fact, no such guitar museum in existence. Using the many connections he had built as a renowned author, figure in the music industry and the editor-in-chief of GUITAR Magazine, Newquist decided to take matters into his own hands and founded The National GUITAR Museum.

People have traveled from as far as Chicago and Los Angeles to see the presentation of this long-anticipated traveling exhibition.

One of the best highlights and most impressive displays the museum has to offer is the Guinness World Record-winning largest playable guitar, which spans a great 43 1/2 feet long, 16 feet wide and weighs 2,244 pounds — the same weight as a small car.

Junior environmental engineering major Peter Hernandez works at the Orlando Science Center and knows about the many guitars that have been displayed in a chronological timeline.

"The idea is, you have the strings and the strings make the instrument, but there's been a million different evolutions of instruments that use strings and plucking strings to make music," Hernandez said. "So what is the guitar? What is the grandfather of the guitar?"

That is a great element of what Newquist wants to expose to the public. Of the 68 guitars, he has collected authentic models of instruments such as the Nyatiti, dating back to 3,000 B.C. from the Leo people of Kenya, and the Pipa, dating back to 220 B.C. from the Chinese. This tangible timeline shows the evolution and development of the guitar as it dates across newer models, such as electric 10-string guitars, aluminum guitars, bass guitars and even the well-recognized Guitar Hero controller.

Along with the history of the guitar, the exhibition offers several thorough and hands-on presentations explaining the science of the guitar.

Wooden xylophones and little mallets demonstrate the different sounds and types of wood that are primarily used in making guitars. There are also guitars with the tops and bottoms removed so that viewers may get a clearer understanding of the inside construction and different parts of the guitar. There are strings to pluck and strum and a popular interactive presentation of a wheel with rope strung across the side shows the fascinating concept of how the frequency of a guitar string is released and measured.

Both The National GUITAR Museum and the Orlando Science Center articulate their passion for the public to understand and appreciate the science of the guitar.

"There's actually a tremendous amount of science behind how the guitar works," Johnson said. "When you think about the body of the guitar, it's about the thickness of a popsicle stick, but yet, it's got over two hundred pounds of pressure pulling on it, and it doesn't snap."

The exhibition has proved to be a place of inspiration and encouragement for those who are still beginning to learn the guitar. Nicholas Cook, a high school sophomore, is currently learning to play the electric guitar. After making his way through the entire museum, he said, "It has definitely made me want to learn the guitar more."

This exhibition is not just for guitarists and those learning to play the guitar. There is something available for everyone to relate to.

"If they don't play the guitar, they have a boyfriend that plays, or a girlfriend that plays, or a brother or sister," Johnson said. "So within six degrees, there's someone they know who's passionate about the guitar."

The "GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World" exhibition will remain at the Orlando Science Center until Sept. 11, when it will then travel to 12 more cities around the country. At the end of the tour, The National GUITAR Museum is expected to announce which of these 13 cities it will make the permanent home for the exhibition. Both the Orlando Science Center and the citizens of Orlando itself are in high hopes that it will return to the city and be here to stay.

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