Future Watch: Willard museum sets its sights on the next 50 years

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Future Watch: Willard museum sets its sights on the next 50 years
The workshop where three generations of Willards made clocks. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

GRAFTON – If the Willard House & Clock Museum could fast-forward 50 years, what would it look like?

If the museum’s overseers had their say, it would become a center for the study of horology – or the study of time and timepieces – and an essential part of the community, not to mention a really cool place for concerts and events.

In order to get to that stage, the museum has started to build on what it already possesses. This includes the endowment that’s been part of the museum since it started 50 years ago.

“The endowment’s survived COVID,” said Robert Gierschick, the museum’s development director. “Now we’re planning for the next 50 years … we want to expand the endowment fund.”

For the museum’s more immediate needs, Geirschick said the museum is staging an “ambitious fundraiser,” with a goal of $75,000.

He said fundraising won’t be easy, given rising inflation and a slowing economy.

“We’re feeling the headwinds,” he said.

Geirschick said the museum’s been very fortunate in that it survived the pandemic, while other museums its size have closed.

“It’s quite a milestone,” he said of the museum’s 50th anniversary. “Tens of thousands of museums have not survived because of COVID. We’re a very small house museum, and a nonprofit.”

What’s in store

On Dec. 4, the museum hosted a holiday open house. Children had a chance to make cardboard clock ornaments, and visitors could see the first floor of the museum decked out in holiday greens courtesy of the Grafton Garden Club.

“The kids are the new generation” of potential museum supporters, said Geirschick.

Visitors learned about the collection of clocks made by three generations of the Willard family.

“The clocks are now time capsules,” said Geirschick.

Recently, portions of the museum were recaulked, and LED lights installed. A big project will be to insulate the barn so that events can be staged there year round.

“It will make the museum more available to a wider audience,” he said.

The museum plans to expand on popular programs, such as the bat walk, plein air and concert series.

In addition, the Willard would like to strengthen its connection to Grafton. Recently, the museum loaned to the Grafton Public Library one of its Benjamin Willard clocks. The clock was placed in the library’s history room, with a view of another Willard clock at the Unitarian church.

“We want to tie all these events to the museum and library,” said Geirschick.

A center for horology

Beyond a place to look at clocks, and to enjoy a concert, Executive Director and Curator Robert C. Cheney would like to convert part of the museum space into a center dedicated to the science of horology.

Part of the museum’s collection includes hundreds of books on the subject, most of which were collected by Cheney himself.

Geirschick said Cheney discovered there were virtually no grade-school books about horology.

“GPS wouldn’t be around with horology,” said Geirschick. “Neither would NASDAQ.”

The museum is at 11 Willard St. For the holiday season, tours are conducted Thursdays through Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Large groups by appointment only. Schedule a tour via willardhouse.org/contact or call the museum at 508-839-3500.

Donations may be made via the website’s homepage.

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