Places to see original theorbos (and related instruments)
The following is a list of museums which include original theorbos, archlutes, and other kinds of lute. It is certainly not comprehensive, and nor are the lists of lute-related holdings, but these are being added to continually. Any further information on other instruments and collections would be much appreciated.
The Lautenweltadressbuch - Klaus Martius's database of surviving historical lutes, including archlutes and theorbos, can be accessed and searched via the Lute Society of America's projects page: click here.
The main portal for information about musical instrument museums is CIMCIM, the Comité International des Musées et Collections d'Instruments de Musique. Their website includes a great deal of information on individual museums, including links to many websites, plus details of CIMCIM publications and an index of construction plans available for instruments in public collections.
The following museums include at least one interesting theorbo or archlute. In many cases they have significant collections of musical instruments, including many lutes. The CIMCIM website's index of museums includes quite detailed lists of many museums' musical holdings, in many cases more detailed than information available on the individual museums' sites, and is well worth checking if you are planning a visit.
I had intended to list museums by country, but decided pride of place had to go to the wonderful new musical museum, the Cité de la Musique in Paris. Incorporating the collections of the Paris Conservatoire, it has a magnificent website via which one can access photographs of their instruments, in many cases multiple views, so it is possible to enjoy much of their collection online. A great deal of technical information about each instrument is also available through the site. Since their holdings include the largest and finest collection of lutes and theorbos in existence, this site is really a must for anyone interested in the theorbo. Instruments by Aman, G. Sellas, M. Sellas, W. Tieffenbrucker, and many, many others. The museum also has a substantial printed catalogue, photographs of many of their instruments are available for sale, and some working drawings can be consulted in their research centre.
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum. A very fine lute collection, which includes a Venere theorbo and a much-copied Tieffenbrucker archlute, liuto attiorbato by Haim, and several magnificent Venere lutes.
Brussels, Muziekinstrumentenmuseum. Highlights include theorbos by Buchenberg, Seelos, Railich, and several other lutes.
Copenhagen, Musikhistorisk Museum. Theorbo by Bosshardt, theorbo body by Andrea Harton, many beautiful lutes and early guitars.
Berlin, Musikinstrumenten-Museum Beautiful theorbo by Christoph Koch, and many lutes and guitars.
Leipzig, Musikinstrumenten Museum der Universität Leipzig. Tiny liuto attiorbato by Sellas, theorbos by Venere and Tieffenbrucker.
Munich, Deutsches Museum Large anonymous theorbo.
Nuremberg, Germanisches National Museum. Theorbo by Alban, liuto attiorbato body by Koch, many fine lutes.
Milan, Castello Sforzesco
Rome, Museo degli Strumenti Musicali, which holds theorbos by Graill and Railich, an archlute by Giauna, and a liuto attiorbato by Sellas, as well as many other interesting lutes and early guitars.
Barcelona, Museu de la Música. Liuti attiorbati by Tieffenbrucker and Sellas, several other fine lutes.
Stockholm, Nydahl collection. Theorbo by Tieffenbrucker, magnificent bass lute, perhaps by Tesler, body of Railich liuto attiorbato..
Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments. Archlutes by Harz and Rotondi, many fine early guitars.
London, Fenton House, Hampstead. Essentially a fine keyboard collection, but includes the remnants of a Christoph Döring German theorbo, and an Unverdorben lute converted into a 13 course.
London, Horniman Museum. Houses (in the Ranger's House) instruments from the former Dolmetsch collection, including a Pardini theorbo, Venere liuto attiorbato, and J.C.Hoffmann baroque lute. Some instruments formerly in the Victoria and Albert Museum are now stored here, but not many are on display.
London, Royal College of Music. Includes Tieffenbrucker theorbo, several other lutes, fine early guitars.
United States of America
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments. Fine French conversion of Venere lute into a small solo theorbo, anonymous liuto attiorbato, Schelle baroque lute.
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archlute by David Tecchler.
Vermillion, University of South Dakota, Shrine to Music