Getting to the heart of clocks conservation
Matthew Read, Clocks Conservation Programme Leader at West Dean College believes that bringing a clock to life deepens not only the understanding of the specific object, but adds a dimension to the visitor experience in museums and galleries. He will be talking at the prestigious Museums + Heritage Show at Olympia in April (29 - 30) and challenging the more conventional conservation view by looking at the benefits and risks of conserving and displaying moving objects to engage and excite museum visitors, rather than relying on hi-tech interpretation to provide a satisfying museum experience.
Conservators at West Dean College worked for three years on an automaton clock in the form of a Chinese Pagoda and standing at 3 feet tall. a rare musical clock made in London and exported to Beijing in the late 18th Century. The clock, made by foremost clockmaker, James Cox, around 1760, is part of the National Trust Collection at Angelsey Abbey which is famous for its important collection of clocks. Initial investigations revealed that the clock mechanisms were suffering from continuous wear and tear. The mechanisms for playing music and rotating three decorative 'pineapple' ornaments had become so delicate that conservators at the College agreed with Trust staff to incorporate digital technology to reproduce the music, rather than expose the clock to further duress. At the 12 and 3 o'clock strikes, a wonderful musical and visual display occurs with musical chimes sounding and jewelled flowers on the four different tiers of the pagoda spinning and their petals opening up.