Thursday, June 01, 2006

A new museum for Springfield

I just now this very moment returned home from the christening of the premier exhibit of The Farrell & Ann Gay Museum of Springfield History, "Time to Remember", in the basement of The Elijah Iles House. "Time To Remember" features the wristwatches & other memorabilia of the Illinois Watch Company from Mr. Gay's collection.

It was the christening of a museum in a city that seems to be becoming a museum capitol. (I wonder how Springfield's museum floor area per capita compares to Chicago or New York or Paris?) This latest of Springfield's many museums is the first ever dedicated to the history of Springfield herself. It is a rich history indeed.

A facet of that history is the Illinois Watch Company which set the standard for timepieces during the late 19th Century and early 20th. Mr. Gay's collection of fine Illinois watches sets a high bar for future exhibits in this new museum named for him and his wife.

He gave a touching speech at what must have been for him a peak moment in his life. Mr. Gay mentioned that it was his "less collectible material," the company letters, letters of employees to other employees, the photos and especially the faces in the photos that he found so fascinating.

The exhibit is about so much more than watches. The Illinois Watch Company was a model employer in the industrial era. As one of the displays relates, a former employee remarked that the watch factory was the ideal place of employment because you couldn't manufacture precision instruments in a grimy, unlit place. The factory featured its own observatory so the company could measure the accuracy of its watches with its own data. Besides watches, the exhibit features the original factory signage that stood above its front entrance for decades, great block letters spelling out "Illinois Watch Co" in a beautiful font.

For museum afficianados, the presentation of the exhibit is first class. The curators of the exhibit are Ed Russo and Corrine Frisch.

Although there is limited floor area in the museum, the space is open and nicely lit. The new, finely crafted wooden display cases almost overwhelm their contents, but make the most elegant presentation imaginable. At every side is found some array of treasures to behold or some smartly-printed text or photo. The place was filled with people this evening and yet it was suprisingly easy to navigate.

Three cheers to the Gays and their wonderful gift of a museum to our town!


Blogger Dick Hart said...

The Board of Directors of the Iles House Foundation thanks Larry Stevens for his inspiring review of the new Springfield Museum of History dedicated to Ann and Farrell Gay. Please come to the Iles House on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 10 and 4 to see Farrell's Illinois Watch Co. exhibit Time To Remember.

Again, thanks Larry.

Dick Hart

6:38 AM  
Blogger Larry Stevens said...


Thanks for reprinting the review in the newsletter!

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Melinda J. Kline said...

Hello there, My husband and I have been to your museum and we both dearly love it. Such a wonderful part of our history.

My question to Mr. Farrell Gay does he purchase large Illinois pocket watch collections? We have approx 80plus Springfield, Illinois pocket watches and related items such as pictures of the factory and observatory and are ready to part with. We just want to make sure they go to a good home. Any help would be much appreciated.
Melinda Kline
Spfld, Illinois.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Melinda J. Kline said...

I may be reached at

Thanks again,

12:27 PM  

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