Oxford gifts nineteenth-century violin to Syrian refugee

Teenage refugee lent historic violin from Bate Collection for ten years

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Oxford University’s music faculty has taken a German-made violin out of the historic Bate Collection to lend to 14-year-old aspiring musician Aboud Kaplo, who is currently living as a refugee in Lebanon.

Andrew Lamb, curator of the 2000-strong instrument collection, was prompted to make the loan after being approached by film-maker and former student of the faculty, Susie Attwood, who had met Aboud and his family while filming a documentary in Lebanon.

When asked why he had taken the decision to lend a Bate Collection instrument to someone beyond University staff and students, which is its principal function, Lamb told Cherwell: “Most museums are very inward-looking. The professionals who work within a museum service generally are concerned only with their own narrow specification.

“Very often I think we lose sight of the fact that we are a global, international resource.

“If we can’t reach out…like this, we don’t really deserve to have our collections of glorious heritage at all.”

On the choice of violin itself, Lamb explained: “It’s not a grand collecting violin, but it’s a pretty good entry level instrument if you’re a young person who wants to learn to play.

“It used to belong to the previous curator before she died. She was one of these outward looking people. If she had known of this circumstance, she would have approved.”

Lamb intends to lend Aboud the violin for ten years, by which time he hopes that he will be ready to transition onto an improved instrument.

“When that time comes we will take it upon ourselves to try and find a better instrument for him,” Lamb said.

When Susie Attwood met him, Aboud was trying to teach himself using Youtube tutorials and a toy violin. He told BBC News: “Playing the violin helps me express my feelings. I want to go on to study music and play on a big stage and travel the world.”