Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Beethoven Center?
The Center is the only institution in North America devoted solely to the life, works, and accomplishments of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). Established in 1983 when Ira F. Brilliant donated his Beethoven collection to San José State University, the Center opened to the public in September 1985.
Building on Ira Brilliant's original donation, the Center now has the largest collection of Beethoven materials outside of Europe. In addition to functioning as a research library and museum, the Center is involved in a variety of educational programs and sponsors concerts, lectures, tours, and other events.
- Who was Ira F. Brilliant?
Ira F. Brilliant (1922-2006) was a lifelong lover of Beethoven's music who became a serious collector of Beethoven manuscripts and first editions in the 1970s. He wanted the materials to be available to students and scholars and collaborated with the College of Humanities and the Arts at San José State University to build the first center devoted to Beethoven in the Western hemisphere.
Planning Your Visit
- Where is the Beethoven Center located?
The Beethoven Center is located in Room 580 in the special collections area on the fifth floor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library.
The King Library is on the campus of San José State University in downtown San José, at 150 E. San Fernando St., on the corner of S. Fourth and San Fernando streets. Public parking is available in the 4th St. Garage across the street (at 44 S. Fourth St.), and other nearby garages and lots. Visitors may also park in the University's Seventh Street Garage on a space-available basis (this garage is often full when classes are in session).
- When is the Beethoven Center open to the public?
The Center is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Normal operating hours are as follows:
Monday 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Friday 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.Saturday: 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.
The Center is closed during most holidays and may have reduced hours for special events. To ensure that the Center will be open during your visit, please contact us before your visit.
- Is there an admission charge?
There is no fee for admission, but we gratefully accept donations and welcome new memberships in the American Beethoven Society.
- May I bring a large group to tour the Beethoven Center?
- The Center welcomes groups up to 50 people, though we ask to be contacted in advance of your visit. See our Visit page for guidelines.
- Is the Beethoven Center accessible for the disabled?
- The King Library was designed to be barrier-free for users with disabilities. Electronic doors, wide aisles, and Braille signs are a few of the physical features that contribute to building accessibility. Staff assistance is available to overcome obstacles, such as the book stacks, which cannot be altered for accessibility. Docents are also available to help interpret the exhibits.
At the Beethoven Center
- May I take photographs in the Beethoven Center?
- Photography and limited video recording are allowed but restricted to no flash. For some exhibits, no photography is allowed. If you are unsure, please ask permission of the staff person on duty. Photography for the purpose of publication in any format must be arranged in advance.
- Do you have tour guides?
- Volunteer docents or other staff are available during all of the Center's open hours to provide guided tours and answer questions. Visitors are also welcome to view the exhibits on their own. We particularly encourage visits between the hours of 1-3 p.m. on Tuesdays, when pianist and volunteer Richard Sogg is on duty to demonstrate the historical instruments.
- What is currently on exhibit at the Beethoven Center?
- Permanent exhibits include a bronze replica of Beethoven's life mask, a maquette of the Zumbusch monument to Beethoven in Vienna, and the historical keyboard instruments. Visitors will also see exhibits of rare and unique manuscripts, scores, books, artworks, and much more in the rotating displays from the Center's collection that change every four to six months. Check the Exhibitions page for the most current information.
- Will any concerts or other events be scheduled in the area during my visit?
- Check our Events page for a current schedule. Other events in the King Library and on the campus of San José State University are listed on their websites. Schedules for the Symphony Silicon Valley, Opera San Jose, the San Jose Chamber Music Society, and many other cultural events are listed in the Downtown San José website.
- May I play the historical keyboard instruments?
- In most cases, visitors are allowed to play, for a brief period, the clavichord, harpsichord,
and the Poletti replica of a Dulcken fortepiano. The instruments may not be available
if they are being tuned, repaired, or in use for a class or other event. Please check
with the staff person on duty or contact us to determine if a particular instrument
is available. The two original fortepianos built by Jakesch and Broadwood are not
available for playing by visitors, but the docent on duty might be able to provide
a brief demonstration.
Visit the historical keyboard instruments page to learn more.
- In most cases, visitors are allowed to play, for a brief period, the clavichord, harpsichord, and the Poletti replica of a Dulcken fortepiano. The instruments may not be available if they are being tuned, repaired, or in use for a class or other event. Please check with the staff person on duty or contact us to determine if a particular instrument is available. The two original fortepianos built by Jakesch and Broadwood are not available for playing by visitors, but the docent on duty might be able to provide a brief demonstration.
- May I see original Beethoven manuscripts during my visit?
- The Center owns several Beethoven manuscripts and usually features at least one in the public exhibits. Check our Exhibitions page to see what is currently on display.
- May I listen to music or view videos at the Beethoven Center?
- The Center has equipment for listening to albums, CDs, and cassette tapes for one person, using headphones. DVDs and videotapes may be viewed on the Center's equipment for groups up to four people. Visitors are also welcome to listen to CDs and view DVDs on their own laptop computers with headphones. To arrange listening or viewing sessions for larger groups, please contact us in advance.
- May I check out books, scores, or CDs from the Center’s library?
- The Center's materials may only be used in the Center itself and may not be checked out. However, the Center does provide photocopy and scanning services for research materials and media equipment for using sound recordings and videos in the Center.
- May I bring food or drink in the library?
- No food or drink is allowed in the Beethoven Center or in any of the special collections areas on the fifth floor of the Library. However, the Library does have a café on the ground floor and allows snacks or wrapped foods and covered drinks in some areas of the lower floors.