Matthew Hill, associate curator in charge of instruments of North America and the museum's guitar collection, noted a heavy concentration of Native American musical instruments he's working with, most of them new, because typically instruments that have been played ceremonially are considered sacred and therefore off limits for museum exhibitions.
Cultural issues, as well as social and political ones, abound. Curator Jennifer Post arrived in Mongolia in 2008 to bring back a number of instruments just as a state of emergency had been declared after a contentious election.
During ensuing riots a cultural center including many musical instruments was set on fire; Post had to persuade local authorities on the lookout for looting that her acquisitions had been acquired legitimately.
Given the speed with which the collection has been built, not surprisingly there are gaps some of the curators are looking to fill. Hill would love to track down a homemade double bass played by Roy Talbot of the Talbot Brothers calypso band from Bermuda, while Amanda Villepastour, hired less than a year ago, is aiming to bolster the collection's representation from several regions of Africa.