By MIKE CHAIKEN
After reaching back to the era of Elvis and Eisenhower for its 2012 season, the American Clock and Watch Museum is now putting the focus on another celebrated period of the decorative arts in America.
On April 11, the museum opened its latest offering, “Art Deco Timepieces: Treasures of the Jazz Age.” The show continues through till December.
When asked how the idea arose for this exhibit, museum director Jennifer Carroll explained, “I’m always looking for new themes (for exhibits),” said Carroll. Last year, she said the museum focused on clocks and watches from the 1950s. This time, they reached back a little further to the 1920s for the Art Deco era.
She said the Art Deco theme was attractive to the museum because they thought it would have a broader appeal to new patrons who might not have a background or prior interest in clocks.
The genesis of the exhibit began innocuously enough, explained Carroll. She was talking to a Facebook friend she had found because they had both “liked” each other’s pages. Carroll said she learned the friend was associated with a firm that did restoration on Art Deco timepieces. And from there, Carroll had a brainstorm about a possible exhibit at the Clock and Watch Museum.
One thing led to another, and eventually, Strickland Vintage Watches of Tampa, Fla. lent the American Clock and Watch Museum 20 timepieces from the Art Deco era. (Some pieces in the exhibit are also from the Bristol museum’s own collection, said Carroll.) The exhibit includes wrist watches, lapel pin watches, and pocket watches. The exhibit also includes a series of display panels featuring blown up advertisements from the Art Deco time period that help give the exhibit context.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Art Deco period and what it meant to the decorative arts, jewelry, design, and architecture, Carroll said Art Deco flourished from 1925 to 1940. It marked a move from a more flowery feel in design to a more geometric and rigid approach. Machinery also took on a much more streamline look. Carroll said there also was an ancient Egyptian influence that reflected the intense interest in all things Egyptian following the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. The Art Deco period also reflected the view that society was on the move, said Carroll. It reflected the nation’s belief in progress.
Thus far, as hoped, Carroll said the exhibit has brought in new visitors to the museum on Maple Street. Once the Art Deco collection is viewed, it has served as a gateway to the rest of the museum’s permanent collection. Some of the patrons have told Carroll they were excited to see the variety of clocks and watches found in the Bristol facility.
Carroll, who took over the director’s post in 2012, said the exhibit marks something of a departure for the museum. Previously, the museum did not reach out to other organizations to collaborate on an exhibit.
Although the time pieces themselves will go back to Strickland when the exhibit closes Dec. 11, Carroll said the museum is exploring the possibility of sending out the accompanying display panels to other museums that may want to launch a similar exhibit “so this has new life.”
The museum is also exploring public presentations that complement the exhibit. For instance, guest curator Bill Strickland will visit the museum from 5 to 7 p.m. tonight, April 26. He will conduct an antique watch evaluation event for the public.
For a museum donation of $10 per watch, visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about their own antique watch(es) including age, rarity, and approximate value. There is a three watch limit per person and official appraisals will not be given.
On Saturday, May 18 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Clock experts Mel Brown and Tom Manning be on hand to help patrons discover information about their special American-made clock. The cost of this service is $10 per clock and each visitor is limited to three clocks. Please note, museums are restricted by law, so it will not be able to provide any appraisal values at this event.
For more information about the exhibit and the American Clock and Watch Museum’s programming, visit www.clockandwatchmuseum.org or contact (860)583-6070, firstname.lastname@example.org. The museum is located at 100 Maple St., in Bristol.