I recently travelled down to the Horniman Museum in order to keep their hammered dulcimer on working order. The one they have is a Dove instrument and all the makers information that is usually visable inside the soundhole has been worn away by children inserting the hammers that are attached to the instrument to play it with inside the sound-hole.
We also discovered about 6 pencils 2 large bolts, the lense from a pair of sunglasses, some plastic sticks and a copious amount of dust. This poor instrument has had a seriously hard life and will be relieved of its duties in October when I deliver its replacement. Several layers of the Birch plywood it's constructed from have been worn away on the front, and the continuous brass bridges had very deep wear cuts 1mm I should imagine. I took off all the strings and sanded the soundboard. I applied 3 coats of finishing oil to the worn away sections. Then I replaced all of the strings. Unfortunatly the sound of this instrument is very poor due to it being screwed to a very thick bassboard, at least 18mm so that the back cannot resonate, this obviously impacts on the sound coming from the soundboard. I intend so resolve this issue in the new instrument.
They don't want any spaces round the instrument into which clildren can insert anything! So I plan to make a downstand around the instrument to keep the back of the instrument at least 5mm off the surface.