Clock museum mishap a 'teaching moment'

Christopher Dornblaser
National Watch and Clock Museum Curator of Collections Kim Jovinelli shows the pieces of a sculpted clock in the collection storage area of the museum in Columbia, Thursday, June 2, 2016. The clock, made of walnut, had been on display at the museum since 1994, until a patron touched the clock on Tuesday, May 31, 2016, knocking it to floor. The museum is choosing to use the mishap as an educational moment and encouraging museum-goers to look but not touch. Dawn J. Sagert photo
  • A clock detached from the wall at the National Watch and Clock Museum after a man touched it.
  • The video was uploaded to YouTube.
  • The museum director said the video is a "teaching experience."

A mishap caught on video at the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia is being seen as a "teaching moment" for visitors, according to the museum's director.

On May 31, a visitor at the museum was touching one of the clocks on display when it detached from the wall. A video of the incident, titled "Please Don't Touch!" was posted to the museum's YouTube account.

“We looked at it as a teaching moment,” said Noel Poirier, director of the museum.

Teaching moment: In the video, the man is shown touching the 22-year-old wooden clock on the wall briefly before it detaches from the wall, causing the man to catch the clock and place it on the ground.

The man immediately informed the staff.

“They were very thoughtful,” Poirier said of the visitor and his wife.

He said the museum will not be pressing charges or asking the man to pay for repairs. Poirier said the clock is repairable, and the man who built the clock will be fixing it.

The incident was a first for the museum, Poirier said.

“We’ve never had a clock physically detach from the wall,” he said.

He said the video is a good way to inform people of the dangers of touching museum objects. While the clock is repairable, Poirier said it's the small touches that do the most long-term damage to displays.

“That’s where the danger of touching museum objects lies,” he said.

Poirier said the museum usually gets between 14,000 and 15,000 visitors a year, and with all those visitors, touching of the objects adds up.

He said prolonged touching can damage the objects in the museum. Sometimes the moisture on hands can damage the finish of objects, and metal objects can be damaged by the oils in the hands.

Poirier added that there are some interactive activities in the museum, such as one showing visitors how pendulums work, where visitors are allowed to touch the objects.

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