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April 8, 2012

The Cuff Link Museum
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:59 PM *

DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the spring of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, by auto, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the afternoon drew on, near the reputed location of the Cuff Link Museum.

I had first learned of the Cuff Link Museum through the book, Curious New England. Yet I had not visited it, even though I had indeed visited places far more remote from my home (e.g. The Glowing Tombstone and Madison Boulder). And so, on a bleak April morning in the year 2012, while Mud Season gripped the North Country, I made my way to Conway.

Details of the Cufflink Museum are scanty on the Web. [Conway Public Library]Despite a mention in an “article” on cufflinks that seems to be plastered at every content-site Google-spam-farm on the Web, there is little real information. From one single entry I got a street address: 71 Hobbs Street, Conway, New Hampshire. (Curious New England had been less exact — “Take Route 16 north until you come to the high school on your right. Turn left there and go half a mile to the Ham Arena skating rink. You’ll see the Yield House and Renovators sign on the left. The museum is on the third floor of Yield House Industries.”) I knew where the high school was, and I recalled Yield House and Renovator’s Supply, but I knew that Yield House had changed location at least twice over the past decade, and it had been years since I’d seen a Renovator’s Supply catalog. Other tantalizing web-based hints included a report on the museum’s non-profit status from more than a decade ago.

The best description of the Cuff Link Museum was in an article by Polly Bannister called The Cuff Link King. It speaks of Claude Jeanloz, an entrepreneur, the owner of Yield House, who amassed a huge collection of cuff links, and put them on display for the wondering public:

The Cuff Link Museum is housed on the third floor of Yield House Industries in Conway. The building, located on Hobbs Street, off West Main, is industrial looking, a factory, not a museum. But don’t let this fool you — once inside you’ll be mesmerized by row upon row of cherry-colored pedestal cases, chock-full of cuff links, a collection that numbers over 50,000. Above the cases oval plates describe the contents. For every category of gem and metal the cuff links are broken down by shape: “Rhinestones: round, oval, square, rectangle; Gold: round, oval, square, rectangle,” and so forth.

I determined to go, to bring back a report to the fluorosphere. And so I arrived at 71 Hobbs Street, to find that it was indeed a light-industrial area, but no hint of Yield House, no sign for Renovator’s Supply, and no cuff link museum.

As one does when thwarted thus, I retreated to the Conway Public Library to ask the reference librarian where the Cuff Link Museum might have gone. Alas, she did not know, and, although she emailed the town historian, his best suggestion was that I check the Internet.

It was another library patron, standing beside me at the reference desk, who had an answer: “I remember the Cuff Link Museum,” he said. “Fella died four, five years ago. It’s gone now.”

Comments on The Cuff Link Museum:
#1 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 07:32 PM:

Depressed now.

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 08:10 PM:

That is a sad loss, say I who have never owned a pair of cufflinks.

#3 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 08:17 PM:

A lot of websites with interesting, unique material go that way too after their maintainer dies or otherwise drops off the Net.

Sometimes you can find traces of them on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, but often it won't have crawled more than the home page and a few others, or display will be blocked by a robots.txt file put up by whoever swooped in to take over the domain after the demise of the original owner.

If you've got a collection of writings, objects, or whatever that you think would be nice for people to continue to enjoy, it's good to work out arrangements with someone to take it over if something happens to you, well before you think you might need that.

#4 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 08:32 PM:

AIUI, that sort of place is really the original tradition that gave rise to the modern idea of "museums". But yeah, usually limited by their keeper's lifespan.

#5 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 12:11 AM:

Step the First: Find out name of owner.
Step the Second: Find out disposition of their estate.

#6 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 12:19 AM:

I hope someday to visit the Burlesque Museum in (of all places) Helendale, in the Mojave Desert near Bairstow, CA. I suspect that it will go when the proprietor dies. Although maybe not.

The loss of the Cufflink Museum is sad.

#7 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 12:28 AM:

If there was still a Cufflink Museum, I'd donate a pair my father's uncle received during his time at RCA. They are gold with a cloisonne schematic of a "valve."

* * *
RE oddball museums, Boing Boing once linked to the website of the "Museum of Menstruation," a collection of literature and artifacts run by an odd single fellow out of his suburban basement. It struck me as the kind of thing that a medical college or the like might obtain and curate.

#8 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 04:44 AM:

Beautifully written, Jim.

#9 ::: Craig ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 09:59 AM:

Speaking of oddball museums, I highly recommend the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto (just across the street from the Natural History/Science Museum). A good way to spend an hour or two.

#10 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 10:54 AM:

I'm building a history site on the Internet where people who run things like the Cufflink Museum can preserve online versions of their exhibits. Unfortunately, I'm doing it in my spare time and the site is not up yet because it is still pre-alpha... Help is on the way, but it won't get here for some time.

#11 ::: AlyxL ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 07:20 PM:

This is sad,. It reminded me of Barometer World in Devon, which has an impressive collection of, well, barometers, including a leech-powered Tempest Prognosticator, as first shown at the Great Exhibition (although it didn't have any leeches in position when I saw it). They are happ0ily still going, and seem to keep themselves going by repairing and restoring barometers as well as exhibiting.

#12 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 05:20 PM:

Since it's not there any more, it's now fair game for old-timers to give directions by, right, Jim? Or do local customs there vary on that?

#13 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 06:00 PM:

Turn left where the Zeke's barn used to be....

#14 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 08:20 PM:

"It's behind where the old Swallen's* was. The new old Swallen's, not the old old Swallen's." Perfectly valid in certain parts of Cincinnati.**

*Former department store in the greater Cincinnati area. Closed around 20 years now.

**The same parts where the Protestants can tell you which (Catholic) parish they live in. This may or may not be related.

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