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Tool Musuems

In this section we list places that we have seen public displays of antique tools. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list. If you like, feel free to recommend an addition. This section is new and we hope to grow it into a valuable resource. We will not list any places that we do not feel would interest a serious tool afficianado, so you need not worry that your time will be wasted visiting one of our suggestions.

The Art Institute of Chicago - The Art Institute is one of the great American city musuems, like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston or the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What it is not is a likely place to find a tool collection, yet it has on display the best single display of early European tools that I have ever seen. Not mentioned in the directory, one stumbles on the tools about like you would find diamond in your Cracker Jack box. In a room dedicated to a paper weight collection, one wall has a display cabinet dedicated to tools. Each and every tool in the cabinet would be the best tool in any international tool auction. Apparently the museum was bequethed a tool collection back in the 1950s and this is a small part of what they have. If the other tools are of this quality, it is formidable collection indeed.

The Transport Museum- Glasgow - Alexander Mathieson & Sons donated to the big city art gallery in Glasgow a display of tools that Mathieson had used in the great exhibitions of the 19th Century. At some point, the art museum gave them to the transport museum. Now they are on display in a street scene that is meant to recreat shop fronts of 1900. The tools are in the window of a tool shop. These tools were made not to use, but to engender awe. And they do. The highlights include a full set of bench planes in polished boxwood, an ebony bridle plow with ivory arms, a rosewood brace with scrimshawed ivory plates, and the list goes on. This is the most impressive set of fancy tools you will ever see. It is heartbreaking to see the disinterested way in which they are displayed. At one point, a broken pipe was actually allowed to spray water on them. Any one of these tools is worth as much as most of the paintings in the art gallery, but they were seen as just common place tools.

The Farmer's Museum- Cooperstown, NY - I have not actually been to this museum, but it is quite famous for its tool collection and one of our customers, Jack Fallon, has informed me that it deserves its reputation. Jack has also recommended a museum in Brugges, Belgium, but he did not know the name. All he could say was that it was on a side street. I can attest to Brugges being one the nicest places on earth, but this musuem must be pretty obscure because we never saw it and we spent a lot of time in Brugges. I will make a point of finding it next time. If you get there first, let me know. Even if you don't find the museum, everyone likes Brugges.