Queen's University

It's about time

Allan Symons, Sc'65, PhD'99, turned his passion for clocks into Canada's only clock museum.

Allan SymonsAlan Symons, Sc’65, founder of the Canadian Clock museum, Deep river
Photo courtesy of Allan Symons

Allan Symons, Sc’65, PhD’69, Deep River, ON, was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award of Excellence from the Ontario Museum Association at its 2010 annual conference in Toronto.

This award recognized his significant contributions to the museum community since 1999, when he retired from a long first career in chemistry research with Atomic Energy of Canada. His unusual second career as an unpaid volunteer began in 2000 with the creation and operation of the Canadian Clock Museum in Deep River, ON. Thousands of in-house and online visitors have toured this unique museum during its first decade. The museum began as a hobby.

“I started in the 1980s to build a collection of Canadian-made clocks and do some restoration,” Allan says. “Friends tell me I was talking about a possible museum in the mid-1990s. Both the clocks and the history of companies that made them are equally important to me.” The museum now has about 2,000 items, including some from the early 1800s, and it continues to grow. Allan acquires clocks and related horological items through purchase or donation. He also carries out research on Canadian clock companies and on 20th century companies that haven’t yet had their histories documented.

“For example, Heritage Canada provided a small contract in 2007 to tell the story about Harry Snider’s two Toronto-based companies that produced hundreds of models between 1950 and 1976. The results of that project,” Allan says, “are located in the Community Memories section of the Virtual Museum of Canada.” At any time, Allan has about 400 clocks on display in the museum’s exhibit room. Outside the museum, there are several working sundials, including one user-friendly version: it’s a large “stand-on, use-your-own-shadow” sundial set into the front lawn. 

Queen's Alumni Review, 2011 Issue #2Queen's Alumni Review
2011 Issue #2
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