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Twin brothers Mikael and Samuel Åhdén have quite a few guitars. Over 300, it’s said, and thanks to the considerable efforts of a small team of collaborators and the municipality of their home town, Umeå, they’ve offered their collection up for public display in Guitars: The Museum.
Throughout a handful of breathtakingly grand rooms, walls are augmented with gigantic glass cases, each containing treasures that may as well be the Crown Jewels to people like us, albeit way more interesting. They have quite the collection of vintage Fender Stratocasters on display, marking each significant transition in its design; a bewildering array of spaghetti logos, sunbursts, reds, blues and worn nitrocellulose lacquer.
We’d arranged with the brothers to photograph one of their prize 1954 Strats for this feature. Playing it in anger – live or at a recording session – was unfortunately not on the cards, because of the museum’s public opening and all the security surrounding it. But just to see it, to hold it, smell it, knock out a few licks; to get the chance to look closely at another old gem and learn a little more, well, that would be enough.
So here we are, the brothers sat around a table in one of the museum’s restaurants, having gone to the considerable trouble of freeing the treasure from its multiple-stage security. They’re shooting the breeze with the great and the good of the Swedish vintage-guitar scene, while photographer Joby Sessions and I get to work on the Strat, just as we have done on hundreds, maybe thousands of guitars before.