Tools, Machinery, and Workplace Artifacts

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PLEASE NOTE: ATHM has closed permanently.

The Museum’s collection of tools, machinery, and workplace artifacts included a broad range of objects from 18th century hand-powered tools and equipment to present-day factory machines. These objects were used in the production of textiles made of cotton, linen, silk, and wool, as well as synthetics. The collection included spinning wheels, handlooms and power looms, knitting machines, carding machines, and spinning machines. There were also combs, reels, winders, shears, beamers, and twist counters,and other ancillary equipment and machines. In addition to tools and machinery, the collection included thousands of items used in the workplace in categories ranging from communication devices to advertising displays, lighting, and lunch pails.

The Museum’s industrial-period collection was simply unparalleled. While other institutions in the United States own select pieces of textile equipment, none of those collections approached the breadth or depth of ATHM’s holdings. Chronologically, the machinery ranged from 1810 to 1970, from water-powered carding machines to shuttle-less looms. Understanding the equipment’s operation leads to appreciation of the roles of the people involved, from inventor and builder to owner and operator, and ultimately to the significance of these machines to the larger society.The collection of pre-industrial-period artifacts was extraordinarily complete, with numerous examples of the equipment for each stage in the process of producing linen, woolen, cotton, and worsted cloth. Along with the objects, The Museum documented machines’ makers and users, regional styles and production techniques, domestic and professional output.

For researchers, the collection offered a dimension not available elsewhere. It provides details of construction not recorded in drawings or patents, evidence of use and adaptation, operation, and insight into the meaning of changes in machines to both workers and managers involved with them.