Friday, May 16, 2008

The Morris Museum

The Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ is just 30 minutes from the Piscataway Embassy Suites, and well worth the trip. Most days at 2 p.m., there is a special tour of the museum's permanenet exhibit, Musical Machines & Living Dolls.

Bob Kussner is the official guide to the collection, composed of more than 150 historic mechanical musical instruments and automata from the Guinness Collection. Mr. Kussner not only explains the history of these magnificent machines, he also selects one or two for activation. There is a fairground organ that was designed to play loudly and lure fairgoers from miles around -- it will knock your socks off!

But there is also a demonstration of one or two automatons: The slow but sure movements of the dolls, created more than 100 years ago, are pure enchantment.

Pictured here are "La Mascotte" made by Gustave Vichy, Paris, France, circa 1885. As a waltz from that opera plays, the figure moves and the basket lid opens to reveal a chirping bird.

On the right is the Limonaire "Orchestrophone," made by Limonaire Freres, Paris, France, circa 1910. This carousel or band organ features 108 pipes. Both of these images are taken from greeting cards, on sale in the museum gift shop.

The Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morristown, NJ. Phone: 973-971-3700. Hours: Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat: 10-5; Thursday, 10-8; Sunday, 1-5.
Entrance fee: $8.

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