Heather Velez


Objects have stories to tell. The Organ-Grinder shares the history and culture of organ grinders by inviting viewers to physically explore the insides of the instrument.



The Organ-Grinder is a replica of the instrument commonly used by street performers at the turn of the 19th century. The interior of the instrument contains a miniature exhibit about the history and mechanics of organ grinders. Through a hands-on display, viewers learn about the street performers, the music, and the monkey. Viewers turn the crank of the instrument to hear popular tunes performed by organ-grinders during that era.

The inspiration for this work stems from a desire to create mobile, interactive experiences that offers viewers multiple means of engagement including audio, visual, textual and tactile cues.

User Scenario
Viewers engage with the organ-grinder in a variety of ways. They can turn the crank on the side of the instrument to hear different tunes. They can open up the instrument and explore the insides which contain an exhibit about the history and mechanics of organ-grinders. The exhibit is comprised of audio, visual, textual and tactile components. Pop-ups will be used to preserve the economy of space.

The organ-grinder consists of a wooden replica, replete with a (toy) monkey. It will not be a true organ-grinder in the mechanical sense since that would take up all of the interior space; instead there will be an arduino with an mp3 trigger to play the tunes when activated by the hand crank. The exhibit displays inside the instrument will be visual and tactile, incorporating techniques from pop-up books.