Clock Watching at The Foundling Museum

By Su Fullwood

Under the banner of The Centre for Conservation and Making, five students from the Clocks Department attended "The Clock Watching" weekend event with tutor Matthew Read (and me). The event was a celebration of all things related to time. Our remit was to overhaul the excellent collection of clock movements within one of the historic galleries, under the gaze of the visiting public.

The Foundling Museum tells the story of the Foundling Hospital, which was established in 1739 and closed in 1954. The museum collections include significant paintings, sculpture, prints, manuscripts, furniture, clocks and historical documents, many of which relate to the areas of expertise we have here within the conservation departments at West Dean College.

We arrived early on Saturday morning and set up our workshop in the centre of the Picture Gallery. Within this inspiring setting Matthew and the students began their work of dismantling, photographing, recording, assessing, cleaning and oiling the clocks in turn. At 10.00 the doors opened and the room was soon buzzing with visitors fascinated by what was being done. We also treated them to formal gallery talks. Using a handling collection, we demonstrated how historic clocks run and more importantly how conservators preserve them for future generations.

Over the weekend we connected with over two hundred people and overhauled several special clock movements. We all left on Sunday evening tired but exhilarated. We would like to thank The Foundling Museum staff and volunteers for their kind hospitality and for the Antiquarian Horological Society for their funding contribution to the promotion of the weekend.