The Macdonald Museum – if you are a clock fan, or even if you are not, this small museum may surprise you

I have been to Middleton, Nova Scotia many times. I have even passed the Macdonald Consolidated School where the clock museum is located without realizing what treasures lay inside. The clock museum represents a small section of the museum, the remainder of which is dedicated to the history of the area.

In the Spring of 2018 my wife and I set off on one of our many mini staycations. On my agenda was a visit to this museum and I was not disappointed.

MacDonald Museum main exhibit area
Macdonald Museum main clock exhibit area
Tallcase clock
Holbeck made tall-case clock
It certainly ranks as the best exhibit in Atlantic Canada

Off highway 1 on School Street, Middleton, Nova Scotia stands the Macdonald museum. I had some expectations because I had been to two well respected clock museums, the NAWCC museum in Columbia PA. and the Canadian Clock Museum in Deep River, Ontario. Though not on the same scale as these two, it certainly ranks as the best exhibit in Atlantic Canada.

According to the web site

The Annapolis Valley Macdonald Museum is home to the Nova Scotia Museum’s collection of over 150 antique clocks and watches. This permanent exhibit showcases items collected by the late Norman Phinney and was one of the primary reasons for establishing the Macdonald Museum. Many of the clocks are in working condition. There are a wide variety of clocks and watches on display, with some dating back to the late 17th century. Anyone interested in clocks would do well to see this exhibit – one of the best in Eastern Canada.

The museum is well laid out with enough information on each of the clocks on display to satisfy the general public and clock enthusiasts alike. Each display highlights its significance as an important development in horological history. We were alone as we walked though the main exhibit area and an adjacent room which contained a fascinating old clock-maker’s shop and a well laid out and informative interactive display on how mechanical clocks work.

Clockmaker's shop
Clock-maker’s shop
How mechanical clocks work
How mechanical clocks work

At least one example from the Baird Clock Co. of Montreal and five examples from the Arthur Pequegnat Clock Co. of Berlin (now Kitchener) Ontario were on display including the Arthur Pequegnat Regulator #1, that the company once advertised as “The finest clock made in America”.

Baird clock from Montreal
Baird clock from Montreal
Arthur Pequegnat Regulator #1
Arthur Pequegnat Regulator #1

None of the clocks were running, however. Though the clocks appeared to be in excellent condition, the sound of ticking clocks make for a more authentic experience. All other clock museums make a practice of running some clocks on a rotating basis at any given time.

At the entrance to the clock collection there is a simple plaque dedicated to Norman D. Phinney. Learning more about Norman D. Phinney, his contribution to the Macdonald Museum and the story of how the museum received his clock collection would add to the experience.

Norman D Phinney
Norman D Phinney

If you are a clock fan or even if you only have a casual interest in the world of horology, this small clock museum may surprise you

Though perhaps not within the scope of Phinney’s original collection, examples from the Canada Clock Co. and the Hamilton Clock Co. or more peddlers clocks from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would have provided an enhanced Canadian horological perspective.

Steeple or sharp Gothic clocks
Steeple or sharp Gothic clocks

However, these are minor quibbles and should not detract you from appreciating the high quality of the exhibits which contained British, American, French and Canadian examples or the many styles that included Pillar and Scroll, tall-case, shelf, beehive, steeple, drop octagons, mantel, alarm clocks and Ogee clocks, all of which were well represented.

If you are a clock fan or even if you only have a casual interest in the world of horology, this small clock museum may surprise you.

Oh, and while there, visit the rest of this fascinating museum.

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