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Wednesday, May 31 • 4:05pm - 4:30pm
(Unique Objects/Unique Treatment) It's About Time

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From May 2016 through September 2016 a team of conservators worked to get the Great American Historical Clock assembled and operational in preparation for filming and later inclusion in an exhibit called Democracy opening in July, 2017 at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. The clock, built about 1893, represents one man's vision of important historical events in the history of the United States. When assembled, the clock will measure a little over 11 1/2 feet tall, 6 feet wide and 4 feet deep. The assembled clock includes an actual clock, dioramas of historical events, painted panels, an orrery and a procession of soldiers and presidents. Most of the dioramas have animated elements, such as Pocahontas pleading for the life of John Smith, that are tripped to move by the times on the clock. Moving parts are run by a mechanism that includes three heavy weights running down through the central core of the clock and connected by gearing to a central shaft with chain drives running out to each diorama. It also includes a music box which is tripped in concert with the movements of the dioramas. The clock was meant to travel and so comes apart as a series of cubes for packing. There is evidence that it traveled with a variety show as far as Australia and Hawaii. Then it traveled back through the US by way of Seattle to Boston where its maker, C.S. Chase, lived. In later years it was on view in two different barns in New Hampshire before being acquired by a dealer and subsequently by the Smithsonian in 1979. A team of 9 conservators treated the clock over a five month period and included 4 contract objects conservators, one contract textile conservator, one contract clock restorer and three staff objects conservators. While the clock has been conserved to clean and stabilize the materials and components, minimal loss compensation was done, as the age of the clock, its life and history were taken into account. After the clock was conserved, it was operated for a short time so it could be filmed. The film is to be included in the exhibit to show how it operates. The clock cannot be run routinely because of the fragility of some the materials and the constant maintenance required. Since the clock will not be run during the exhibition, the documentation of the project and mechanisms is of incredible importance. This project allowed for analysis and exploration into this fascinating piece of American Folk Art and provided clues to the mystery of the maker, his timeline and processes he used in building the clock. The logistics of organizing the project and coordination between the many conservators and labs, both staff and contractors, with different specialties proved to be a unique and challenging opportunity. With considerable coordination and planning, the project was completely successful.

Speaker(s)
avatar for Diana Galante, [PA]

Diana Galante, [PA]

Objects Conservator, National Museum of American History
Diana Galante is an objects conservator at the National Museum of American History, where she is treating objects for the upcoming reopening of the West Wing. Previously, she was a conservator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, an Objects Fellow at the... Read More →

Co-Author(s)
avatar for Beth Richwine

Beth Richwine

Senior Objects Conservator, National Museum of American History
Beth Richwine is a Senior Objects Conservator at the National Museum of American History and has been there since 1987, where she started as a third year intern from the Cooperstown program and never left. She loves working with historical objects of all kinds and is especially fascinated... Read More →
avatar for Dawn Wallace

Dawn Wallace

Objects Conservator, National Museum of American History
Dawn Wallace is an objects conservator working with the National Museum of American History on exhibits for the renovations of the West Wing. She spent her third year internship at NMAH before graduating from the Buffalo State SUNY Art Conservation graduate program. Dawn is interested... Read More →

Wednesday May 31, 2017 4:05pm - 4:30pm
Crystal Ballroom B Lobby Level, West Tower

Attendees (74)