Right 'On Time'

January 1999

Timepieces:News

Right 'On Time'

A new Smithsonian exhibit is being designed to excite the public's interest in timekeeping. You may want to consider tie-ins

Time will march into one of the most visited sites in the United States this fall as the Smithsonian Institution opens an exhibit exploring how Americans have measured, used and considered time. The permanent exhibit, called "On Time," will reside in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Hundreds of clocks, watches and other timekeepers will comprise the exhibit, replacing a more general American technology exhibit that included timepieces.

Smithsonian exhibits, usually widely covered in local and national media, lead to greater public awareness of their subjects. So you may want to gather details about the exhibit to use for in-store seminars or product demonstrations.

Beyond Tick Talk
The exhibit, with exclusive support from Timex, is expected to explore timekeeping and its increasing importance as a part of everyday American living, says curator Carlene Stephens. Traditional clocks and watches will be interlaced with items from daily life used to tell time, she says.

Stephens will include a British weight-driven lantern clock used in the U.S. around 1680 as well as an 18th century almanac used as a time manager because it indicates moon phases as an integral link to daily timekeeping.

Curators mostly will select items from the Smithsonian's considerable timepiece collection. Many items will illustrate U.S. contributions to timekeeping technology in the 19th century, when the country led the world in developing mass-produced pocket watches, railroad timekeepers and clocks. As a dramatic illustration of how technology developed, the exhibit will include the skeleton of a horse used during tests of pocket watch precision.

Range of Contributors
"We're delighted to see the Smithsonian explore the range of American timekeeping history," says William Ewbank, executive director of the American Clockmakers-Watchmakers Institute in Harrison, OH. Ewbank and other AWI members met informally with Stephens and co-curator Maggie Dennis to discuss the exhibit.

AWI will lend a Beta 21 movement, the first prototype working quartz movement made by the Swiss consortium CEH. AWI's prototype was made for Bulova.

Tsutomu Mitome, president of Seiko Corp. of America, donated a sealed-movement and a replica of the 1969 Seiko Astron 35SQ, the first commercially available quartz watch.

The actual opening date for "On Time" hadn't been set at press time but it will be sometime in the fall. The museum has already prepared a primer on the development of quartz timekeeping on its Web site (www.si.edu/ lemelson/Quartz). The Web site is part of the Smithsonian's larger look into the development of quartz technology. For details, call (202) 357-2379.

– by Michael Thompson



Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


 

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