As a watchmaker it works out well that I have family near Columbia, Pennsylvania. That is where the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors Museum and World Headquarters is located. I have driven by it a couple of times on family visits, but never had the time (no pun intended). This last visit we managed to free up a couple of hours to check it out. A couple of hours was not sufficient. The museum is very impressive. The building is absolutely gorgeous and much bigger than I expected.
When you enter the museum you are greeted by a large, spacious foyer with high ceilings held up by massive columns. Around the perimeter are running tower clock works on display. As you enter the museum you are brought through the development of timepieces: early timepieces such as sundials and candle clocks, then tall case clocks, wall clocks, tower clocks, pocket watches, and wrist watches. The halls are large and welcoming both stroller and wheelchair friendly, and the displays are clean and well maintained.
Along the way are a host of tools and machines on display...
as well as a recreation of a watchmakers shop from around the turn of the century. It has cases of watches on display, and this is where I found two of my favorite items.
The first was an early Hog bristle pocket watch (my last newsletter dealt with this extensively).
The second was a very interesting pocket watch with a spherical hairspring. It was beautiful!
The shear volume of items on display is impressive, there is case after case of watches...
and walls and walls of clocks...
I wished there was a display showing the early transition from stationary time pieces to mobile ones. Something to highlight and show the early innovation of clock makers as they struggled to make time keeping mobile. But I might have missed it since I had to rush a little with three kids under 10.
The museum had a couple of kids crafts out which really helped. There were tables along the way where they could make a sundial, clock face, and coloring sheet. That kind of stuff is great and shows the museum staff knows that a museum needs to appeal to all ages.
When you get into the wrist watches there are some great items on display, early auto-winders, lots of advertising, and a large collection of items from the Hamilton watch company (which was located just up the road in Lancaster).
For me it was nice to look at a case full of watches and pick out the ones I liked best for whatever reason, but for those in my group that had limited knowledge of what makes a watch different it was just a case of watches. It would be a welcomed addition to highlight why the important features of the various watches are important. Most people I talk to don't know the difference between a 7 or 21 jewel movement, and why it is important, or the difference between a standard watch and a trench watch, or what the development process was like to get to where we are today. The museum does an excellent job telling you exactly what you are looking at, but leaves it to you to know why those features and their development are important. Explaining the "why" would increase the understanding and appreciation for the less informed masses looking at the exhibits.
There are a number of items and exhibits that are switched out regularly. My understanding is that each return visit you should see something that was not on display before.
The gift shop alone is worth the stop. They have a great selection of clock and watch decor, books, and apparel. All in all the museum is a must see for any clock or watch enthusiast. I highly recommend it. After all, it is filled with everything that makes us tick!