Two New Exhibits Opening Sunday at Mercer Museum
“SURVEYOR’S COMPASS”: This piece by Thomas Greenough, circa 1735, is part of “Magnificent Measures! The Hausman-Hill Collection of Calculating Instruments,” one of two new exhibitions on view at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pa., May 23 through September 6.
The Mercer Museum, operated by the Bucks County Historical Society, has announced the opening of two new exhibits, “Measurement Rules” and “Magnificent Measures! The Hausman-Hill Collection of Calculating Instruments,” in the Martin & Warwick Foundation Galleries at the museum on Sunday, May 23. The exhibits run through Monday, September 6.
“Measurement Rules” is a family-friendly, traveling interactive exhibit created by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. The exhibit explores the meaning of size, height, length, weight, and volume through a variety of hands-on activities like giant tape measures, treadmill odometers, balance scales, and more.
This playful exhibit, perfect for young children, teaches the fundamentals of measurement through fun questions like, How many chickens do you weigh? How tall are you in apples or inches or pennies? and Can you use your foot as a ruler?
“We’ve designed this exhibit to enable kids to work together and become more confident in the language of measurement,” said Anne Fullenkamp, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s Director of Design.
The second exhibit, “Magnificent Measures! The Hausman–Hill Collection of Calculating Instruments,” is a companion exhibit featuring rare examples of historical measuring instruments drawn from the private collection of Bucks County residents Kathryn Hausman and Jim Hill.
Over the last 50 years, Hausman and Hill have built one of the most extensive private collections of early colonial and 19th-century American measuring implements. Many of the early measuring tools and complex instruments on display embody the sophisticated scientific principles that helped map, measure, and build early America.
“Magnificent Measures!” includes instruments for measuring the weather (thermometers, barometers), land (surveying instruments), and the human body (a tailor’s rulers and other implements for gauging the size of arms, legs, waists, feet, heads, and fingers for crafting clothing and accessories).
The exhibit showcases the work of significant early makers of measuring implements, such as notable 18th- and 19th-century craftsmen Anthony Lamb, Rufus Porter, Thomas Greenough, Justus Roe, Caleb Leach, and the Chapin Family of Connecticut. Historic photographs and documents of these makers and their businesses add to the exhibit’s appeal.
The origin of the Hausman-Hill collection traces its roots back to Jim Hill’s youth. Hill discovered an early love of science and mathematics, which inspired an interest in calculating devices. These objects, it seemed to him, were more than simply tools or mechanical artifacts. To Hill, they were “significant, physical manifestations of how math and science have long been applied to everyday life.” Later, Hill’s professional career as a machinist, metalsmith, woodworker, restorer, and custom manufacturer soon became intertwined with his collecting interests.
Cory Amsler, the Mercer Museum’s vice president of collections and interpretation, has
worked closely with Hill and Hausman to make this exhibit a reality. He said, “The Mercer Museum is thrilled to present this stunning assemblage of early and often rare measuring tools from a local Bucks County collection. Jim Hill and Kathryn Hausman follow in the footsteps of Henry Mercer in appreciating the workmanship, scientific complexity, and artistry involved in the manufacture of these remarkable pre-industrial age instruments.”
It is the hope of Hill and Hausman that “Magnificent Measures!” inspires visitors to “look to our past as an inspiration for the future — its legacy of practicality, creativity, and progress should not be forgotten.”
Entrance to “Measurement Rules” and “Magnificent Measures!” is included with general Mercer Museum admission. In addition, the Mercer Museum will host related virtual community programs throughout the summer.
The Mercer Museum is located at 84 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. via timed-entry slots. Advance tickets are highly recommended. For more information, visit mercermuseum.org.