To Preserve and Protect: Meet Research Fellow and Project Archivist for Hamilton Watch Company
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To Preserve and Protect: Meet Research Fellow and Project Archivist for Hamilton Watch Company

- By Keith Lehman (PA) 12/21/18

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Claire Moclock, Research Fellow and Project Archivist for Hamilton Watch Company, holding the original certificate of incorporation for Hamilton Watch Company.

WatchNews announced in July that the National Watch & Clock Museum, in partnership with Hamilton Watch Company, was seeking a Hamilton Collections Research Fellow and Project Archivist. After several months of sorting through potential candidates and conducting interviews, the position was filled in late October. Claire Moclock, a Pennsylvania native, has photographed nearly a third of the museum’s 900 Hamilton-related objects and is dedicated to processing 1 of 20 archival collections associated with Hamilton Watch Company. During her time as fellow, Ms. Moclock will spend over 450 hours documenting, organizing, and preserving the Hamilton Watch Company Records Collection, which spans 47 boxes and contains materials that date back to the Company’s founding in 1892. Today, she may very well be the youngest Hamilton Watch Company archivist in the world.

On December 12, Ms. Moclock held a LunchTime Talk at the Museum to share some of the work she has done. Afterward, I had the chance to visit Ms. Moclock at her office in the archives of the Fortunat Mueller-Maerki Library and Research Center to ask a few questions about her background and the work she has done as Research Fellow and Archivist.

Ms. Moclock looking a box of Hamilton Watch Company documents in the Fortunat Mueller-Maerki Library and Research Center Archives.
Ms. Moclock looking in a box of Hamilton Watch Company documents in the Fortunat Mueller-Maerki Library and Research Center Archives.
WN: How did you hear about the Hamilton Collections Research Fellow and Project Archivist position?

CM: While job searching, I came across the position on

WN: What is your education background and are you currently studying?

CM: I received my undergraduate degree in Visual Studies from Temple University, which allowed me to hone my photography skills while studying Art History and Contemporary Visual Culture. I completed my Masters of Library and Information Science, with archival emphasis, at the University of Pittsburgh. Although I am not currently enrolled in school, in addition to my work here, I am conducting survey research about undeveloped film in archival repositories across the United States.

WN: Do you have a background in watches or clocks?

CM: I do not have a background in watches or clocks and never thought I’d be working with them, related materials, etc.

WN: When did you start and what was the first project that you started with?

CM: I started here on October 29. My first and main priority was the Hamilton Record Collection, which I am still working on. I am currently halfway through box 41 of 47!

WN: What is a typical day for you here at the National Watch & Clock Museum?

CM: My work typically starts where it left off the day before, right down to the item or file I was working with. Every day involves taking very detailed notes about what I’m doing, box by box. Some days, I step away from the archives, into the museum collections, and photograph Hamilton watches. This parallels a lot of the documents I encounter in the archives, as some of them helped produce the objects I photograph.

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Ms. Moclock sitting at her desk with early black and white photos of the Hamilton Watch Company factory in Lancaster, PA.
WN: During your LunchTime Talk you mentioned that you come across many curious and serendipitous findings. So far, what has been your favorite?

CM: My favorite so far is probably the two glass plates shown in my presentation, where one portrait overlaid the other, appearing as a double exposure of two different people.

What I didn’t mention during my talk but absolutely adore are the extremely personal pieces of information. Though I haven’t come across many examples, G.E. Shubrook’s desk calendars and personal photo albums provide a human contrast to what the rest of the collection depicts as a chemist employed by Hamilton.

WN: During your LunchTime Talk, you mentioned how office supplies like paper clips and metal prong bases can, over time, cause damage to documents and ephemera. Are there modern office supplies that may threaten the longevity of a document or piece of ephemera?

CM: Yes, some modern office supplies can oxidize or rust in the same way old ones did. Paperclips or clips of any kind can damage papers even if they’re not rusting. Staples leave holes, rubber bands dry rot; adhesives and tapes are generally the worst of these things. Papers, page protectors, and file folders are usually questionable because some are made with chemicals that can stain or expedite deterioration of other materials.

WN: The National Watch & Clock Museum is the official historian of the Hamilton Watch Company Not every watch company has this. What challenges do modern companies face today in the Digital Age to preserve and protect their history?

CM: Modern companies first face a financial commitment to preserving their digital and analog histories by hiring a professional to digitize and/or then implement systems to manage and store those digital files. Similarly, analog materials need clean and secure storage to last as long as possible.

Specific to the Digital Age though is obsolescence of hardware and file types. It is easy to assume that scanning a photograph as a .JPEG or .TIFF means it will last longer but unless that file is taken care of, one might argue it will not last longer than it would as a print in an actual box. This is because digital files need to be taken care of in their own way. Ideally, multiple copies should be made and stored on any combination of server space, cloud storage, or external hard drives. Even here, we can’t be completely certain that these files will still be readable by computers in the future.

You can watch Ms. Moclock’s LunchTime Talk in the Vimeo window below:

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