The Frank Tomes Collection

TitleThe Frank Tomes Collection
TypeMIMEd
DescriptionThis collection of 36 musical instruments, mainly brasswind, was built up by Francis James Tomes (1936 - 2011), professional sousaphonist and instrument maker. Frank approached historical instruments with two complementary disciplines: sculpture and handcraft. After secondary school, Frank served an apprenticeship as a nautical model maker, and then studied at Wimbledon School of Art from 1954 to 1958. His early practical experience included work in sculptural casting at the renowned Morris Singer Foundry (among the sculptors whose work he helped realise was Henry Moore). After further study at the Royal Academy Schools he joined the staff of Wimbledon School of Art where he worked part-time as a teacher and technician for forty years. Some time before 1972 Frank discovered the attraction of acquiring of musical instruments as works of art, and a collection of mostly wind instruments began to assemble. This in turn led to his taking the brass instrument repair course at Merton College in 1982 to better inform practical work on the collection. Frank undertook any necessary restoration and conservation work on his collection himself, always with sensitivity and respect for the original maker's workmanship. From the mid 1980s he took over making sackbuts and serpent crooks for Christopher Monk; soon after he marketed the sackbuts himself and started making natural and slide trumpets. As a collector, Frank's discriminating eye led him to a high level of connoisseurship. Fakes were detected and avoided. The aspects of old instruments which appealed most to Frank were the sculptural qualities of their design and the ingenuity of their makers. Victorian engineering skill as applied to brass instruments (in, for example, valve design) excited Frank's admiration and stimulated detective work in figuring out exactly how the instruments were made. Frank always welcomed fellow enthusiasts and researchers to view his collection, which also reached a wide audience through his generous loans to exhibitions, including the Galpin Society's "Made for Music" Exhibition in 1986, the "Brass Roots" travelling exhibition shown in Bradford and five other places 1989-90, and the "Sackbut and Trombone" Exhibition, Edinburgh 2009. His widow, Susan Tomes, graciously offered the Frank Tomes Collection to the University of Edinburgh in 2012. These 36 instruments were selected by Arnold Myers from the larger number Frank had assembled and were chosen to represent the instruments Frank was most proud to have collected and to complement the existing holdings of Musical Instrument Museums Edinburgh.
CustodianFrancis James Tomes (1936 - 2011)
Custodial HistoryThe collection was inherited by Frank Tomes's widow, Susan and donated by her to the University of Edinburgh in 2012.
Parent CollectionMIMEd