The history of the museum
The history of the museum

The history of the museum

The Mechanical Music Museum was born from Liisa and Jürgen Kempf’s love to music and antique. They lived in Germany while Jürgen was in military service working as a professional officer and Liisa was a housewife, taking care of their son, Pawel. Before moving to Germany Liisa had studied microbiology in the university of Helsinki. Due to a working accident Jürgen’s military career was suddenly stopped and young couple begun to think of a new profession and livelihood. Both had good language skills, Jürgen had experience in management and human resources management due to his previous career and also Liisa had run a small antique shop in Germany. So buying, selling and customer services were familiar to the couple. Over the years the family had also collected a compilation of 70 mechanical musical instruments.

In the seventies there were many museums of mechanical instruments in Germany, so there was no point in establishing a new one in the same genre. This affected vitally to the decision to establish the museum to Finland, Liisa's motherland. Liisa and Jürgen spent two summers around Finland finding a suitable milieu and setting for the museum and just by a coincidence, such place was found from Tuusniemi, Savo. The municipality of Tuusniemi was very interested of the museum and so the project got started. The next couple of years Liisa and Jürgen worked in Germany as flea market vendors, manufacturing horn gramophone copies and other products that were in demand in flea markets at the time. From the savings accumulated from this activity moving to Finland and starting the new business were finally possible. The idea of mechanical music museum in Finland was all in all exceptional: exotic museum pieces together with exotic foreign people in Finland!

Hiidenlahti, Tuusniemi Hiidenlahti, Tuusniemi, 1. sali/1st hall/1. halle Hiidenlahti, Tuusniemi, kahvila/cafe Jürgen & Pawel

The Kempf family, along with their personal property and instrument collection, arrived to the yard of and old elementary school of Tuusniemi on 3.5.1981. They had reserved 2,5 months to the interior decoration and setting up the business. Jürgen was in charge of the furnishing and the decoration of the premises, Liisa took care of the practicalities and the necessary documents. The Mechanical Music Museum was ready to open on 15.6.1981 and the permit for the opening was issued on 1.7.1981. The museum had one 90m2 room in use and there were 70 instruments displayed. The village of Tuusniemi gave the new company three signs to erect to the side of the Kuopio-Joensuu road. The signs were ready and in place on the 16.6.1981 and the first customer came to visit the museum on 17.6.1981. The village and the helping neighbors had welcomed the new entrepreneurs and the Museum, and largely thanks to them the business got started in such a quick schedule. Between 1.7. - 15.12.1981 there had been 350 visitors in the museum.

When the museum had been running for four weeks, it was clear that though the operations were small, it raised interest since it was such an exotic idea in Finland.  The tour guidance was still a bit unprofessional but cozy, and the new entrepreneurs knew that there was lot of work ahead. The next thing to consider was how to get the museum to "the map of the world", known more widely to the public. It was decided to create relations and network with influential people and find groups that would help to support the museum. To the media the new and exotic toned Mechanical Music Museum was a true delicacy. The museum also got many intellectual friends and amongst them the name of the museum spread ahead.


The remote location in Tuusniemi wasn't very profitable economically, but it was still very good starting point for the museum. Two years from the start the museum could buy the school building and thus improve the basic economic security of the business. As a supplementary service, a cafe was established to the museum in 1983. The cafe became very popular because of Liisa's delicious pastries, the selection included home made wafers, german cheesecake and other delicacies. Along with the cafeteria the turnover of the business increased 20%.

To raise the recognition of the museum and mechanical music in general, in 1985 Liisa and Jürgen organized a hurdy-gurdy festival in Joensuu. The town gave full co-operation to organizing the festival. The event became a breakthrough! After the festival the surrounding towns and municipalities in the region became interested to get the newcomer museum to their own locality. The practice period for the new profession stepped aside as the museum turned into actual business, when a very good deal was made with the town of Varkaus and the museum started there on 1.4.1988. During the seven years that the museum operated in Tuusniemi there were nearly 100000 visitors. The museum collection had grown from 70 to 110 instruments. The start-up phase was over and the next question was how to make the museum even more popular tourist attraction!

At the moment The Mechanical Music Museum has served as a family business for 32 years. Along with Liisa, Jürgen and Pawel Kempf there has been also other family members working for the museum, for instance Liisa's sister Suvi. Nowadays Pawel's wife Katja and daughter Vera bring their own contribution and know-how to the museum's operations. Also employees from outside of the family have become part of this action-packed and colourful Mechanical Music family. A long term employee, Tapio Lohikainen with his musical knowledge has in his part enriched our museum and Anssi Kasanen as a new employee has greatly taken his place amongst us. Our museum operates with guts and heart, with love and appreciation towards our visitors, music and mechanical instruments!