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At This Museum, Falling Back An Hour Takes The Whole Weekend


Americans gain an hour tonight with the seasonal end of Daylight Saving Time. For many that means setting the clocks back, on your watch and alarm clock and microwave and stove, phone, tablet, coffeemaker, refrigerator, scale - whew. There are clocks built into bookmarks these days. But imagine if you had a whole museum full of clocks to turn back. Noel Poirier does. He's the director of the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Poirier, thanks so much for being with us.

NOEL POIRIER: It's my pleasure, Scott. Thank you.

SIMON: Busy weekend?

POIRIER: Yes, it will be a very busy weekend for us.

SIMON: How many clocks do you have to change?

POIRIER: Oh, my goodness. We operate about 50 clocks or so in the museum itself and then on top of that, of course, everybody's got their desk clocks like everybody else does in the office so it's a lot of clocks.

SIMON: And how to do that? Volunteers? Teams of high schoolers? 82nd Airborne parachute in?

POIRIER: It would be helpful, it would get us done a lot quicker. No - we have a really nice dedicated group of volunteers and curatorial staff who will go through the museum and make sure all of the clocks are going to give us the right time. It's a little easier this time of year than it is in the spring because when we're falling back an hour and you're running clocks that operate principally with pendulums, all you do is stop the pendulum for little while, go get a cup of coffee, come back in an hour, start the pendulum up - and so it's a little bit easier, but it still time-consuming.

SIMON: Ever miss one?

POIRIER: I'm sure we have.

SIMON: I'm just wondering. You don't want people walking through the National Watch and Clock Museum to see the time incorrect.

POIRIER: Exactly and so we take our Daylight Saving Time responsibility very seriously this time of year.

SIMON: You have a party, I understand.

POIRIER: Yes. Yeah, we decided a couple of years ago to start kind of celebrating both the springing forward and the falling back and we do what we call a time traveler party and we encourage guests to come dressed-up and we pick a particular time period that we're going to talk about and get people to associate with. And this year we're actually doing a disco dance at the museum and it should be an interesting evening.

SIMON: I probably don't have to tell you, Mr. Poirier, there's kind of a debate that gets renewed every year about whether or not we should have Daylight Saving Time. Do you have any strong feelings?

POIRIER: I really don't. I think that there are legitimate reasons on both sides for why we have it and why we don't. I don't know that the arguments either for or against are all that compelling. I think that we all enjoy getting that extra hour of sunlight in the summertime and we all lament we have to give it up in the fall, but the sun has always been such a big part of timekeeping that I think that it's nice that we still debate it.

SIMON: If it's not too personal, what kind of watch do you wear?

POIRIER: I do not wear a watch.

SIMON: (Laughter).Well, I guess at the office you hardly need it.

POIRIER: Well, that's the case and like so many folks of my ilk, my principal timekeeper is my iPhone.

SIMON: Noel Poirier, director of the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania and he will not be doing any Swatch ads soon.

Thanks so much for being with us.

POIRIER: My pleasure, Scott. Thank you for having me.


CHICAGO: (Singing) Does anybody really know what time it is?

SIMON: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.