The museum grew from the Heinrich Weiss collection of cylinder music boxes, disc music players, musical timepieces and mechanical automatons – one of the largest in the world. Switzerland has a 200-year history of music boxes that grew from its expertise in clockwork. The collection was opened to the public in 1979 and given to the Swiss Confederation in 1990. The building was expanded by the Swiss architects Schwob & Sutter in 2000.
Visitors take a guided tour when music boxes and automata are played for them. The Workshop shows how sounds are generated and stored. The Salon Bleu focuses on the enjoyment of music, with performances to conjure the salons of the past. The tour ends in the Dance Hall, which contains astonishing music automata such as a Phonoliszt-Violina made in Leipzig, a Weber Unika from Waldkirch near Freiburg and a Decap dance organ from Antwerp. Also shown is the recently discovered Welte philharmonic organ from the ship Britannic, sister ship of the Titanic. Three conservators specialise in music boxes and bird automata for clients worldwide.