Interview with Curator About Restoring Elvis' Guitar
August 05, 2011
Elvis will be in the building this summer at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona! An Elvis Presley exhibit opens tomorrow in the museum’s newly renovated Artist Gallery. Guests will get to experience the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll through a collection of personal items, clothing, and musical instruments.
One highlight of the exhibit will be the iconic Martin D28 acoustic guitar that Elvis played during his 1977 tours, including his last concert on June 26 in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition to displaying it, the museum was chosen to restore the guitar to the condition in which Elvis last played it. We recently spoke with curator Irene Peters, seen in the photo above, about the restoration efforts.
Q) What kind of work needed to be done on the instrument?
A) There were two things that essentially needed to be done. There was a crack in the neck and then there was an issue with the pick guard. It had old adhesive on it that was bubbly and not holding well, so the pick guard was curling up at the edges. There was also a little open split in the soundboard and two even smaller splits next to the end pin. I glued those and filled them in. I also glued the broken neck, which was pretty straight forward because it was a clean break. I mechanically removed some of the old adhesive. That was the work that I did.
Q) What was it like to handle this historic instrument considering its incredible legacy?
A) I tried to remove myself from the history and look at it just as a guitar. I tried to concentrate on the instrument’s condition and what it needed. Remove myself from the story so that I could do the work properly. There was a little bit of awe though!
Q) Some museum visitors were able to watch some of the restoration work taking place. What was their reaction?
A) They were very impressed. When I walked out of the lab and saw or talked to visitors, everyone was asking 'Is that it? Is that Elvis’ guitar?' Quite a few even stuck around for hours to watch despite the work itself being somewhat mundane.
Q) The new Elvis exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum opens on August 6. Can you tell us about it?
A) I was involved in setting it up. Two of Elvis’ beautiful jumpsuits are on display. They’re on loan from Graceland. Elvis' U.S. Army jacket is part of the exhibit and that’s a very fascinating piece. I also love the double-neck guitar that’s on display. Overall, it’s a very well-rounded exhibit!
Q) What other historic instruments have you worked on restoring?
A) One that stands out in my mind is a beautiful guitar from Santana. John Lennon’s piano is also here on display. I’ve done condition reports on these instruments, but restoring Elvis Presley's guitar was probably our biggest conservation project yet.
For more information about the Elvis exhibit, visit the Musical Instrument Museum's website! Also, check out the Los Angeles Times' slideshow celebrating the exhibit's opening!