What is time? How can we measure time accurately? Humans have wrestled with these questions since prehistoric times.
For centuries, drums and bells told people when to get up, when to work and when to attend religious services. Time was measured communally using public sundials and turret clocks.
Towards the end of the 15th century, clockmakers invented a mechanism using a coiled spring instead of a falling weight which made it possible to produce smaller clocks that could be used in the home.
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums has a clock collection dating from about 1680. Many of these clocks have numbers expressed in Roman numerals. The clock cases are decorated with images including flowers, foliage and Roman or ancient Greek motifs.
The mahogany longcase clock made by Aberdeen clockmaker George Morison in the late 18th century is decorated with an acanthus leaf at the centre of the top arch. Acanthus leaves are prickly or toothed and were a popular decoration in ancient Greece.
The marble bracket mantle clock with scalloped feet was made by clockmaker James Hardy, Adelphi House, Aberdeen in about 1820. Sea shells were used as currency in some cultures and symbolised fertility to the ancient Greeks and Romans. There are floral motifs engraved around the dial and on the front of the base.
Aberdeen clockmaker James Sutherland made a clock with a brass finial on the top in the shape of a pineapple in about 1830. Pineapples would have been very rare and expensive at that time in Britain. The clock has a glass back to reveal the inner workings.
Nowadays, our lives are filled with deadlines, appointments and schedules. Do you enjoy the fast pace of modern life?
Or would you prefer to have lived when time was only measured by the sun: waking at dawn, working on the land from sunrise to sunset and sleeping during the hours of darkness?
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums:
- Aberdeen Art Gallery (reopening autumn 2019)
- Aberdeen Maritime Museum (open 7 days, admission free)
- The Tolbooth Museum (open 7 days, admission free)
- Aberdeen Treasure Hub Museum Centre
For visiting information go to www.aagm.co.uk
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