Tinker Cottage Winter Updates 2018

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Now that cooler weather is upon us, we’d like to give you a quick overview of what will be coming your way from here until the end of the year.

Our Victorian Mourning Customs exhibit has been taken down as of November 1st. Missed your chance to see the exhibit? No worries, we have another exhibit coming your way! Starting the weekend after Thanksgiving and running through January, you will be able to visit our Victorian Christmas exhibit. Join us as we discuss Victorian Christmas traditions, parties, and how the Victorians still relate to us today.

You’re also going to want to stop by to see the Victorian Childhood Exhibit before it is taken down in the new year!

Looking for something to get you in the holiday spirit? Join us on December 1st for our final paranormal tour of the year: Ghosts of Christmas Past! You can get your tickets HERE!

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens

Tinker Swiss Cottage will be closed November 21-23 in observation of Thanksgiving, but we will reopen for our usual tour times on Saturday, November 24.

Please also note that Tinker Swiss Cottage will also be closed from December 22 through January 1st in observation of the holidays. Our regular business hours will resume on January 2nd, 2019.

We can’t wait to see you soon!


~ Samantha

Mourning in the Tinker Swiss Cottage

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With October nearing a close, everyone is heading out to the local apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and haunted houses. While you’re carving pumpkins, drinking apple cider, and telling ghost stories, don’t forget to check out Tinker Swiss Cottage for a historical twist to the fall season!

What’s new (and maybe a little creepy) at Tinker Swiss Cottage for the month of October?

On September 4, 1901, Mary Tinker passed away in her home at the age of 72. The Tinker family stopped the clocks at the time of her death, and her portrait in the parlor was adorned with flowers. In the Victorian era whenever a death occurred in the family the clocks would be stopped at the time of death, as if time itself stopped with the passing of the loved one. If a portrait existed of the departed, it would be strewn with beautiful flowers. When you visit us this month you will notice that the clock in the parlor has been set to the time of Mary’s death, and her portrait is once again decorated with flowers and crape.


The most obvious difference you will find in the parlor is the authentic Victorian coffin. Don’t worry, nothing is going to pop out at you, but it does bring a creepy feel to the room. Along with the coffin, you will notice that the full-length mirror is covered in black. The Victorians covered mirrors for two purposes. First, it allowed the family to mourn without having to watch themselves cry. However, the second purpose is far more interesting – a spiritual movement in the Victorian era. During this movement, not only were Victorian families going to church every Sunday and reading their Bibles, but they also believed heavily in the spirit world. Some tried to make contact with their departed through séances and Ouija Boards, while others simply did not want their loved one’s spirits to be trapped in the home. The Victorians believed covering the mirrors stopped the departed souls from getting trapped inside of it, thereby allowing them to find their way out of the home more easily.



In the library you will find a Witch’s Ball sitting on the fireplace mantle. Legend has it that a homeowner with children would place string inside of the Witch’s Ball in order to protect their little ones from the witches who would sneak in through the windows at night. The Victorians believed that the witches would be attracted to the ball with the string inside of it. They would waste away their nights trying to pull the string out one little piece at a time until morning came and they had to flee. The children’s souls would be safe from the witches, and enough string would be left in the ball to protect the children the next night as well.

What other aspects of death were the Victorians interested in?

The Victorians had many other mourning traditions. For example, the family of the deceased would wear specific mourning garb. The style, fabric, and color varied depending on one’s relationship with the departed. Wives wore mourning clothes longer than any other member of a family. The women wore black veils covering their faces for 3 months after their husband’s death, and then the veil was moved to the back of their bonnet. Widows wore veils for approximately one year and the rest of their mourning attire for a total of two years. After two years they did not need to wear the deep black dresses, but they had to slowly transition from dark colors to lighter ones. Many widows never returned to the brightly colored dresses, choosing to remain the muted colors for the rest of their lives. Men would wear their black suits, gloves, and neck ties for a year after their wives passed. Parents would mourn the loss of their children for a year, and children would mourn their parents’ deaths for approximately a year as well. Siblings mourned for approximately six months. Be sure to stop in to see Mary Dorr Manny Tinker’s Mourning gown on display in our sitting room for yourself!

Marry Dorr Manny Tinker ©TinkerSwissCottageMuseum


In an era before Facebook and Instagram, the Victorians did not have many images to remind them of their loved ones who had passed. Post-mortem photography became very popular, since it was possibly one of the only times a person could have their portraits taken (generally due to the high cost). During these sessions the body of the deceased would be propped up in an effort to make them seem more lifelike. It was also very common for other family members to gather around the dead in order for their picture to be taken at the same time. In the Tinker Dining Room you will get a chance to see one of these images.

Along with post-mortem photographs, the Victorians would also take pieces of their loved one’s hair to fashion into a keepsake. Some fastened locks of hair into jewelry, while others were arranged into floral shapes and framed. Many Victorian families even collected hair from every family member who passed and fashioned the strands into pieces of art. In Jessie’s bedroom, you will find a lock of Jessie’s first husband Gye Hurd’s hair next to his photo on her dresser.

Remember, these pieces are only out on display for the month of October! Hurry in to learn about mourning customs in the Victorian Era before October’s over!

It’s also not too late to join us for one of our unique Paranormal Tours! Our final tour for the season will be this Friday, October 26 at 7pm.
¤ Samantha
Some extra reading:
Victorian Funeral Customs and Superstitions

Tinker’s Shadow

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Looking for a fun way to take Tinker Swiss Cottage home with you? Filmmaker Michael Kleen has put together a wonderful new documentary on Tinker Swiss Cottage, titled Tinker’s Shadow: The Hidden History of Tinker Swiss Cottage.


Photo Copyright of Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens

The documentary focuses on both the history of the Cottage and also on the paranormal aspect of the museum. Staff members, volunteers, and paranormal experts join together to share our history and stories with you. All proceeds go directly to maintaining the Cottage.

You can now purchase the documentary through Amazon Instant Video, with DVDs coming to our gift shop later this year! Click HERE for a direct link to our new documentary!


#Didyouknow that when you shop at Amazon you can select a non-profit organization to receive a donation through your regular everyday purchases? Just go to and type in “Tinker Swiss Cottage”, and Amazon will donate part of their proceeds from your purchase to our museum!

2017 in Review

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It’s been another exciting year here at Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum, and now that the end of 2017 approaches, we’d like to take a look back at all that we’ve accomplished together.

We started the year off on the right foot – with a lecture from Mark Twain and Olivia Clemens! Re-enactors Stuart Corsa and Mary Ann Constable Guttman portrayed Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) and his wife, Olivia Clemens. They delivered invaluable advice and laughs, providing us with quite an entertaining evening!


Murder Mystery Nights popped up throughout 2017, allowing visitors to step back in time and partake in an evening of intrigue, scandal, and murder in either a 1920’s Speakeasy or Victorian Home party.

We also hosted a handful of private tea parties at the Cottage, including our annual Fairy Tale Tea! Families were served a tasty 3-course lunch, sang with princesses from Once Upon A Dream Performances, and toured the Tinker Cottage in a fun afternoon over the summer.

By far, the most frequently asked question from our visitors is “Is the Cottage haunted?” Besides recommending watching the Ghost Hunter’s episode (season 8, episode 20, “Fear Factory” btw), we invite you to come check it out for yourself! In 2017 we had numerous paranormal tours, investigations, and we even teamed up with Haunted Rockford to host our annual Illinois Paranormal Conference held at Veteran’s Memorial Hall. If you missed them this year, don’t worry! We’ll be hosting plenty of paranormal events throughout 2018.

Tinker Shirt
Get your own Tinker Paranormal T-Shirt in our Gift Shop!!  ©TinkerSwissCottageMuseum&Gardens

Every year the Cottage is decorated in October for a Victorian funeral, where visitors will learn about mourning customs of the Victorian Era. Likewise, from the end of November through the beginning of January, the Cottage is decorated for Christmas. Visitors will hear about Victorian Christmas traditions, along with viewing original Christmas ornaments and cards from the Tinker family. Throughout the year, we also set up exhibits in the red and yellow rooms of the Cottage. Currently, we have a lovely postcard exhibit set up – showcasing Victorian postcards the Tinkers either picked up on their travels or received from their family and friends.

This year we have partnered with the Erlander House Museum and the Graham-Ginestra House Museum in a Historic House Alliance in hopes of gaining new collaborative activities between Rockford’s house museums. This year we hosted our Holiday Happenings where visitors could visit all three museums in one fun-filled afternoon to learn about Swedish Christmas traditions, English Christmas traditions, and Christmas in the Victorian era. We hope to have new and exciting events in the upcoming years.

Speaking of exciting events, if you didn’t know already, our Executive Director Steve Litteral appeared on Channel 39 Eyewitness News with Christie Nicks in an edition of “Stateline Strong” this fall! If you missed the interview, check it out HERE!

2017 was another great year full of various rentals at the Cottage. We hosted weddings, birthday parties, baby showers, bridal showers, and a great number of school groups and scout groups! If you’d like to check out our rental space and packages, please email us at!

We owe a great deal of gratitude to our dedicated volunteers – we couldn’t do all of this without them! This year we’ve been fortunate to add another handful of wonderful volunteers to our family, including one that became our 2017 Volunteer of the Year.

megan pic

Megan is one of our most recent volunteers, joining our team in June after moving to Rockford in March. Megan wanted to make a difference in her new community, so she signed up to be a cashier in our Museum Gift Shop. She quickly jumped into volunteering as both a cashier and a docent, giving tours of the Cottage two to three days a week. In the short six months she has been with us, Megan has accumulated 128 volunteer hours! We are very thankful to have her join our fantastic group of volunteers.

If you are interested in joining our team, please email us at or visit our website at

We’re looking forward to another exciting year full of Murder Mystery Nights, Lectures, Tea Parties, Paranormal Tours, and everything in between! Have a safe and happy New Year – we’ll see you in 2018!!




From Rockford with Love: Postcards of the Victorians

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Have you heard? Tinker Swiss Cottage has opened its latest exhibit in the Cottage: From Rockford with Love: Postcards of the Victorians. Between the Red and Yellow rooms, you will find a fun collection of various postcards sent to the Tinkers from around the world and ones of our own Rockford area as well! Before you come to take a look at the beautiful Tinker postcards, here’s some more information on the history of the postcard for you.


Postcard 1
Postcard from Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens archives. ©TinkerSwissCottageMuseumandGardens



The History of Postcards

Postcards were first introduced in Britain in 1870. To begin with, the Post Office issued pre-stamped, plain cards. Because there were no images on the card, one side was used to address it, while the other side was used to write out a message to the receiver. It is believed that the first picture postcards were sent out in 1894. These cards required the sender to add a halfpenny adhesive stamp before mailing. In 1902 the British Post Office officially allowed divided back postcards on which senders could include both the address and message on the back of the postcard, while the face of the card contained an image.

Before postcards became widely available in the United States, during the early- to mid-19th century many envelopes would depict small images on their exteriors. While many displayed holiday images, thousands of patriotic pictures were printed on envelope exteriors during the Civil War. It is believed that these images on the envelopes in some part led to the creation of the postcard.

Records indicate that a copyright on a private postcard was issued as early as 1861. However, these were privately sold, non-pictorial cards. The first governmental postcards issued in the world came in October of 1869 in Austria; whereas, the United States issued the government postal card four years later in 1873. It wasn’t until 1907 that the U.S. Government permitted the use of divided back postcards. This development ushered in what is known as the “Golden Age” of the postcard. This era reigned from 1907-1915 where millions of postcards were printed and sold throughout the United States and Europe. The first “high-speed” photo printers were invented in 1910 and allowed real-photo postcards to be mass produced throughout the world. This invention shifted the emphasis of handmade postcards to large scale commercial printing.

What Purpose Does a Postcard Serve?

Postcards served a variety of purposes in the Victorian era. One of many reasons postcards became popular is due to the fact that it was a cheaper way to send messages; whereas, letters would take more postage to send, especially when they were a few pages long.

The first postcard printed with the intention to be sold as a souvenir debuted in 1893 at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. During the following years, the private printing of pictorial postcards boomed throughout the United States and Europe. Before 1893, many postcards contained advertisements for various businesses. However, after the Columbian Exposition, many saw the potential for producing other types of souvenir cards for tourists. By 1895, many postcards were printed with images depicting larger cities or famous tourist attractions of both natural and historic interest.

Advertisements on postcards were widely distributed, imploring one to buy this product or another. However, postcards could be used as propaganda as well. During times of war, the government issued postcards depicting images and advertisements convincing civilians to join the military and serve their country. Politically, postcards were used as a means to show who was running for office and who people should vote for.

The surge in souvenir postcards opened a new hobby for many people. Collecting postcards from one’s travels allowed one to revisit locations and bring back memories of their trips. It also allowed many people to see parts of the country, and even the world, that they would not have been able to visit for one reason or another. Collecting postcards also assisted in learning about new locations or the history of various places, such as our very own Tinker Swiss Cottage.

Postcards were used to not only write to family or friends from one’s vacation, but also as a means of showing off various tourist points of interest. By this means, postcard senders became a means of advertisement and propaganda for various industries and cities. These postcards became a means to draw in new and repeat visitors to locations across the world.

Themed postcards became widely popular as well, especially around the holidays. One of the most popular themes was Christmas. These Christmas postcards would be colorful and captured the Christmas spirit. As such, postcards would be used as decorations during the holidays – such as Christmas greeting cards are today. Throughout the year, in order to add colorful decorations throughout their homes, many would place the postcards they received from family and friends on tables, mantels, and shelves.

In the early 1900’s, cameras with the ability to print photographs directly onto the backs of postcards were invented. This development allowed people to photograph and share their images of their families, homes, and surroundings.

Our postcard exhibit will run through mid-January, so hopefully everyone will get a chance to stop by the Cottage to see these exciting pieces on display! After your tour, don’t forget to grab a few postcards from our gift shop as souvenirs of your visit to Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens!

Why Museums Matter

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Whenever you meet new people, everyone tends to ask you where you work. For us, when we tell people we work at Tinker the majority of the time we get people telling us they’ve either never been through the museum, or they went as a child on a school trip. When you live in a town as large as Rockford there is always something to do, and museums often tend to get put on the backburner. Many people think: “Oh it’ll always be around, so we can go another time.” Will it though? In the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s home museums were extremely prevalent throughout the nation. Over the years, many have closed down for one reason or another – an opportunity to visit is no longer an option.

What real purpose do museums serve anyways? When people visit museums, they become immersed in local, state, national, and even international history. You find that history is more than just a list of names and dates. These were actual humans who made some sort of difference in the world – whether on a large governmental scale or a member of a small scale community. Museums remind us of the importance of our heritage and human advancements. In a post-digital world where information is only a few key strokes away, museums provide a plethora of artifacts and documents which constantly open new doors of research. Perhaps Colleen Ritzau Lath, a specialist in museum management and the history of collecting, put it best when she said:

“Museums are not graveyards of dead art or storehouses of the past: they are active records of ‘us’ in the broadest most universal, global, and cosmopolitan sense of the word. To wander and wonder is to activate a special kind of enlightened curiosity about the world, in which we see ourselves in the creations of someone else and come to know ourselves as part of a continuum of shared human identity. “*

So, how are Rockford’s home museums bringing history to life?

At Tinker Swiss Cottage we have tours Tuesday through Sunday twice a day at 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm. Visitors learn the history of Rockford’s early years through the eyes of the Tinker family. Stories of the family, architecture, and artifacts are all discussed in a narrative style, bringing you into the Victorian era. We host lectures, workshops, and interactive school tours to help immerse our visitors into life as a Tinker.


The Erlander Home Museum is run through Rockford’s Swedish Historical Society, and tours are currently by appointment only. They are hoping to establish set tour times for the upcoming year. Visitors to the museum will get the chance to view John Erlander’s home through the eyes of the Swedish population in Rockford during the Victorian and early twentieth centuries. Their newly-opened Cultural Center provides visitors with an opportunity for communal events and hosts visitors from Rockford’s sister-city in Sweden.

The Graham-Ginestra Home Museum has recently opened as Rockford’s newest house museum. As partnered with the Ethnic Heritage Museum, tours are on Sundays from 2:00-4:00 pm. Visitors will get an English and Italian view of Rockford from the 1800s-1900s. The museum is currently planning many events over the upcoming year to bring history to life.

Being part of the Rockford community, in part, means knowing and appreciating our heritage and upbringing. Over the next few months, we challenge you to take a step back in time and visit one of the many historic homes in Rockford to really experience our history. We look forward to seeing you soon!


¤ Samantha

Victorian Kitchens

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Many homes today are situated with an open floor plan. One of the main draws to this layout is the ability to see and interact with friends and family as you prepare meals in the kitchen. While we see the benefits of an open kitchen, the Victorians kept their kitchens hidden from visitors’ sights.

Kitchens in the Victorian era were located either in the back of the house or in the basement, generally consisting of a large workroom with a pantry. Some homes also connected the kitchen to the servant quarters, allowing easy access to firing the stoves or starting on the morning’s first cup of coffee. Cast iron stoves emerged as the most convenient way to prepare food. These stoves allowed cooks to adjust flues and metal plates, which in turn aided in the control of temperature. And what about that first cup of coffee? With Starbucks and Keurigs everywhere today, it doesn’t seem too hard to get that quick wake-me-up. However, the Victorians physically ground their own cup of coffee using the aptly named coffee grinders.

IMG_20170730_183654_971This guy here can grind one whole cup of coffee!

Throughout the era, new kitchen gadgets mass produced paved a way for new modes of cooking. Created to reduce both time and labor, these innovative gadgets included pastry cutters, cheese graters, potato peelers, and can openers – all of which are still common in our kitchens today. While home refrigerators didn’t surface until 1913, various preservation techniques were used in the kitchens. Victorians salted, pickled, smoked, and canned many of their meats and vegetables. These would then be stored in either the pantry or the root cellar. *Fun Fact*: Robert Tinker made sure his Cottage had both a pantry and root cellar!

20170726_152944Part of the Tinkers’ larger pantry. Stop by to see the rest of the neat items the Victorians used! ©TinkerSwissCottageMuseum&Gardens

During the latter half of the Victorian era both indoor plumbing and electricity allowed for even more kitchen innovations. Full sinks were installed, along with early electric stoves. Although refrigerators didn’t come into homes until the early years of the twentieth century, ice boxes cropped up in kitchens throughout the Victorian era. The Tinkers’ stove was removed from the property a number of years ago, but when you come to visit you’ll still see their original sink, pantry, and a large number of items the Tinkers and their servants used on a daily basis. We look forward to seeing you soon!

20170726_153008*Cherry pie not guaranteed 😉



Silver Sneak Peek

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As I’m sure you’ve heard, the All That Glitters Silver exhibit has been open at the Tinker Swiss Cottage since August 9. Curious as to what is on display in our red and yellow rooms? Here’s a sneak peek!!

The Manny Reaper

We know that John Manny created and produced a new harvester aptly named the Manny Reaper. Curious about this latest and greatest technological innovation in the farming community and its competition with McCormick? We have some answers for you!


John Manny’s new harvester even won many silver trophies. However, they do look a bit different from what we know as trophies today. Here’s a sneak peak at one of the many trophies on display:



The Cleaning Process

We’ve spent a lot of time this summer preparing the Tinker’s pieces for display. Curious as to how we polished these silver pieces or how to polish your own silver? We’ve got the yellow room set up to show you the stages of tarnish, how to shine them up, and what materials are best to use on your silver.

On top of our display, one of our staff members may be polishing up more pieces in the yellow room while you’re visiting. If you happen to catch us in there, feel free to stop and ask us about the piece we’re cleaning or to get more information about the cleaning process!



Personal Items

Of course the exhibit wouldn’t be quite the same without some of the Tinker’s personal items. In the red room you’ll find a lot of neat pieces the family used on a daily basis, such as ivory handled knives, a mirror, a hair brush, and – my personal favorite – the early stages of the spork!

Before you leave make sure to check out the infamous “Gifted Tea Set” inside of the display case!


That’s all the sneak-peeking we’ve got for you today! We can’t wait to see you soon at one of our tours. Remember, we’re open Tuesday through Sunday at 1pm and 3pm, and we hope you enjoy the exhibit as much as we do!!



All That Glitters: A Silver Showcase

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What is more stunning than a table full of  silver pieces? 

Silver pieces can be very simple or exceptionally intricate with engravings and etchings. The new exhibit, All That Glitters, showcases the many and varied pieces belonging to the Tinker, Manny and Dorr families.

The Tinker  family collection boasts silver tea sets, trays, and flatware that are all delicately  designed and  decorated. Each piece has a story to tell. The collection also showcases the many  trophies and medals awarded to the Manny Reaper Mower.

Various aspects of silver will be explored in this exhibit, including silver fabrication and decorative techniques, and the social role of silver objects in Victorian America.

Periodically throughout of the exhibit, staff will be on site during tour times actively working on cleaning the current collection. Feel free to stop by and ask questions you may have about your collections and treasures!

The All That Glitters exhibit will be on display from August 9, 2016 until December 18, 2016.  The exhibit will be housed in the Red Room and is a part of the general admission tour. Please visit during our tour times Tuesday through Sunday at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM.

Saving Our Silver- one piece at a time!

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On March 5, 2016 Tinker hosted our first CPR for Your Silver Workshop!

The workshop was an interactive discussion and hands-on demonstration on how to properly clean your silver pieces using  simple techniques and  materials.

We had some amazing pieces come in and our participants did a GREAT job!!

Check out our action shots and some AMAZING before and after results!

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2016-03-04 02.17.22-12016-03-04 02.19.232016-03-04 02.17.51silver pieces

Are You Curious?: Tinker’s Cabinet of Curiosity Opens

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What is a cabinet of curiosity anyway?

From the Renaissance to the 19th century, the cabinet of curiosities showcased the hobby that was collecting.  During the Victorian era, people who were interested in science and the natural world would have a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ in their homes. These cabinets could either be a physical a piece of furniture—like a bookcase or shelf, or they may just be a simple box filled with many small drawers or stacking trays.

Victorians had a desire to collect, observe and acquire  objects that seemed inaccessible and it became a wide-spread phenomenon.  The previous generations of wealthy society   members started this trend as they, “were hoarding things—strange things—into  obsessive personal collections” ( Mueller, 785). The objects contained in the cabinets of curiosity were meant to stir up a sense of curiosity and awe in the spectator.

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The growth of public exhibitions boomed under the Victorians. Exhibiting spaces were crowded by curious spectators wanting to get a glimpse of the unusual, the rare, or the bizarre. The collections exhibited often displayed scientific and natural objects alongside the unique and unclassified. The mixtures of objects in these collections pushed the on the boundary of scientific classification systems. Victorians sought out  objects for their cabinets of curiosity based on the objects rarity, foreign origin, and any example that broke the rules of scientific classification.

Any natural specimens could become a part of these cabinets. Robert Tinker has such a cabinet. It resides in the upper left corner cabinet in the Library. Guests are not allowed to truly view the wonderful objects inside, due to the low balcony on the second floor of the library. Therefore, we have decided to open the cabinet and display all the wonders it holds! The collection contains : seashells, fossils, mineral specimens, preserved animals,and even cultural objects from all over the world.

Cabinet 1- full view
Cabinet of Curiosity located in Upper Library

The Tinker’s Cabinet of Curiosities exhibit will be on display from February 2, 2016 until June 30, 2016. The exhibit will be housed in the Red Room and is a part of the general admission tour. Please visit during tour times Tuesday through Sunday at 1:00PM and 3:00 PM.

*Mueller, William. “Mathematical Wunderkammern.”The American Mathematical Monthly 108.9 (2001): 785.




Things that go bump in the night…

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As a historic home, we receive several questions everyday. From “ How much did this home cost to build?” to “What wood is in the floors?” to general statements like “I wish I could live here!“, all of these come throughout our daily guided tours.

However, these questions turn a bit macabre as October and the Halloween season comes creeping in.

“Have you seen anything? “, “Have you heard anything strange before?”“Is the house haunted?!”

This much is certain, as a home that just celebrated our 150th anniversary, we have a lot of history. We have a lot of stories to share. That is why we have paranormal tours.

Join us every Friday in October for scintillating tales from paranormal experts. Each tour brings a new author or investigative group to Tinker to share their knowledge and experience in the paranormal field. Many of these speakers have investigated the Cottage and will share their stories throughout the night. Audio clips, video footage and pictures of investigations inside the Cottage and at many other haunted locations are showcased.

Then comes the best part- a tour of Tinker Swiss Cottage and a chance to have your own paranormal encounter! Tour all three floors of the historic house as you listen to stories of Victorian mourning culture, family history and (of course) personal experiences and paranormal encounters that have taken place over the past 70 years.

You are welcome and encouraged to bring your own equipment (cameras, audio recorders, emf).  The first tour is October 2nd, with many to follow. Each tour brings a new guest paranormal expert that is sure to leave you in the “spirit”!

So don’t forget to join us for our 2015 paranormal events!

  2nd: Paranormal Tour,  with Steve Litteral 7-10 pm 
9th: Paranormal Tour with Sylvia Schultz , 7- 10 pm
16th: Paranormal Tour with Kathi Kresol of Haunted Rockford, 7-10 pm
23rd: Paranormal Tour , 7-10 pm
30th: Paranormal Tour, 7-10 pm with Wisconsin and Illinois Paranormal investigation Team (WIPIT) 

Exploring Rockford’s Roots by Thinking Outside the Box

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All too often, we forget the beauty, history and culture that is in our own backyards. We frequently think of visiting these cultural treasures but regretfully do not. Lack of time or money seem to get in the way. Therefore, it is the job of institutions to connect with the communities that surround them. The biggest question is how? How do to provide access to these resources? How to create a memorable interaction? How do make a rewarding experience? Most importantly, how to make it affordable?

In 2013, a collaboration between organizations, museums and restaurants was born out of a desire to answer these questions and connect Rockford back to its history. Rockford was born on the Southwest side. Germanicus Kent, Thatcher Blake and Lewis Lemon arrived on the Kent Creek in 1834 and begin Rockford’s story. Today, South West Ideas For Today and Tomorrow (SWIFTT) along with Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens, Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden and the Ethnic Heritage Museum will partner to offer tours for citizens and visitors to “Explore Rockford’s Roots.”

On May 31, these southwest Rockford attractions will open their doors to the public and offer food coupons that may be redeemed at eight area eating establishments. Admission is free to the three destinations, and patrons will receive coupons worth up to $8 each for lunch or dinner at participating restaurants: Zammuto’s, La Chiquita, Delicias Bakery, Las Palmas, Luichi’s Hot Dogs, Chiquita Food Market, Mi Ranchito Restaurant and Guanajuato.

We invite you to come and explore any or all of these locations:

 Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens, 411 Kent St., was built in 1865 by former Rockford mayor Robert H. Tinker. It was modeled after a chalet-type architecture he saw on a trip to Switzerland. Tour this historic house museum and park. Guided tours of the first floor are given every 20 minutes from 1- 3 pm. Limit of 15 people per tour. The museum is not accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. Animals are not permitted inside the buildings.  Info: (815) 964-2424 or

• Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 2715 S. Main St. Enjoy the beauty of spring on 155 acres as the flowers are blooming. A former tree nursery, Klehm has a century of horticultural development and features a combination of plants native to the Midwest and from around the world. Friendly dogs on leashes are welcome. Hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (Memorial Day – Labor Day). All buildings and paved garden paths and trails are accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. Info: (815) 965-8146 or

 The Ethnic Heritage Museum, 1129 S. Main St., celebrates the cultures and heritage of southwest Rockford, the place where Rockford began. It houses six galleries: African-American, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian and Polish. Special exhibits are featured throughout the year. The museum is open Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Info: (815) 962-7402 or

Rockford’s creativity happens all year long, but it being highlighted this May through Rockford Lutheran School’s Out of the Box movement. This collaboration is only one of many happening in Rockford. As a participant, we are proud to see many organizations think out of the box every day. We celebrate these partnerships and their continuous effort to promote variety and depth in the creative opportunities given in our community. For more information on Out of the Box events and activities, visit the calendar of events at

Spotlight on Tinker Volunteers

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Since the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum opened it’s doors in 1943, our volunteers have been the heartbeat of the museum! Throughout the years, volunteers have cleaned, cared, advocated, researched, guided, gardened, and most of all loved this museum.  Although volunteer roles have changed and professional staff have taken over some of these roles (guess who does the cleaning now?), volunteers are still a huge part of what we do at Tinker! From our wonderful docents (tour guides) who lead guests through the Cottage, to our cashiers in the museum store and our fabulous gardeners who tend to our grounds, volunteers still are essential. We would love to thank each and everyone for their service to the museum! We can not say it enough !!!!!

So why not meet one or two of these special people?


Michelle Meyers was selected as the 2014 recipient of the Ruth Lunde Volunteer of the Year award. Michelle has dedicated herself to serve over 100+ volunteer hours at Tinker as a cashier, docent, special events volunteer and as a researcher. This year, she has conducted a variety of research for the Cottage, finding a few unusual anomalies about the past that has provoked more research about the family.  Michelle has helped with many school groups and special tours of the Cottage allowing the staff to count on her when in a pinch! She says that she driven to volunteer because,” is deeply in love with the house and the the man who created it.”


Gail Zahm was a recipient of the 2014 Illinois Association of Museums Silver Service Award for her 42 years of volunteer work at the museum. The Silver Service Awards will be given to recognize volunteers with at least 25 long years of faithful service at an institution.

Gail began her volunteer career in the fall of 1972; she volunteered to take a shift in the parlor during a Junior League event in the Cottage. Before the year was out, Gail was the treasurer of the board. She would faithfully serve on the board throughout the next 25 years.  Gail has continued to volunteer as a Docent, guiding visitors on tours of the Cottage and donating over 4,000+ volunteer hours!

When asked why she dedicated so much of her time to volunteer at Tinker, Gail’s answer was simple. As a teacher by vocation, Gail said, “Being a Docent is like teaching. When I guide first time visitors and tell them the story of the cottage and its part in the community history, they get excited. That is the reward, pure and simple.”

Want to know more about volunteering at Tinker? Click below!

The Digital Museum Race

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Museums are always attempting to stay current with the digital world and know that guests are always expecting new and exciting experiences. This article discusses the newest trend in museums by creating virtual tours to allow guests, who cannot visit the museums, to see what is really going on inside museums.

By Sebastian Smee
| Globe Staff March 18, 2014

On the anniversary of the 1990 theft that is still the world’s most notorious art heist, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on Tuesday became the first New England museum to use Google’s Street View technology to let viewers navigate their way virtually around its galleries.

The collaboration with the Google Cultural Institute allows what the Gardner describes as a “complete first-person walk-through experience” of the museum.

Of course, in reality the experience is in no way “complete,” nor is it meaningfully “first-person.” You can’t, as you enter the Gardner’s famous courtyard, smell the damp ferns, or feel the contrast of warm, humid air and cool stone. You can’t hear the sudden, secret hush. You can’t walk up the stairs, look down on the courtyard from above, or feel the emotional pitch of the constantly shifting light levels. All these things are at the core of the experience of the Gardner.

Full street view of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Graphic: An example of Gardner Museum’s street view

And yet, for anyone curious to know what kind of museum the Gardner is, there is no doubt that the new Google website, which is part of the Google Art Project (accessible at, is a tremendous tool.

Online viewers can use their mouse or touch pad to move around each room, getting close to Mrs. Gardner’s objects and getting a feel for her highly personal arrangements of pictures, furniture, fabric, and objects. For teachers who want to impress upon students — students who might be anywhere in the world — what makes this museum so special, so charged with ideas, feelings, and history, it is a remarkable new development.

The Gardner is the latest of hundreds of museums around the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts, to partner with Google Cultural Institute, a branch of the giant tech company that is based in Paris and dedicated to bringing cultural treasures online.

At the moment, just over 100 of these institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Acropolis Museum in Athens, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, offer “museum views” — the ability to navigate the museum virtually — but only a few of these offer access to the entire museum.

The part of the website dedicated to the Gardner also allows close-up views of 52 individual works in the collection, with plans to include more.

None of these views, as yet, makes use of the extremely high definition close-ups Google has made available elsewhere (a special camera is required), but this may change down the track.

The website also allows users to search for artists by name, to sort them by date, to compare pairs of specific works, and to group together digital images of works not only from the Gardner but from other museums.

It still has glitches. Moving around is far from seamless, although it gets easier with practice. The lighting is disconcertingly bright, at times almost washed out, and quite out of sympathy with the actual museum even on a bright day. And the small targets that can be clicked on to connect you with specific works and associated information sometimes appear out of place — showing up in the museum’s windows, for instance, and not on the piece of art. Still, it’s a strong beginning.

For many museums, including the Gardner, partnering with Google is a way to benefit from newly available digital technologies while avoiding a great investment of money and resources.

“For us to do this on our own would be incredibly expensive,” said Gardner director Anne Hawley at the launch. The Google team, which mapped the Gardner with a specially designed trolley with a 360-degree camera affixed, did its work in one day last year.

Even as they celebrated the launch of the collaboration and trumpeted its possibilities, Hawley and Peggy Burchenal, curator of education, seemed acutely conscious of a dissonance between the virtual experience of seeing the Gardner online and the benefits of actually being there. Hawley hoped the new project would stimulate interest in the Gardner and encourage more visitors, but added that museums adopting virtual technologies cannot be sure that will happen.

Speaking at the launch, and confessing to mixed feelings of her own, Dawn Barrett, the president of neighboring Massachusetts College of Art and Design, said that because “the ideas of the world are contained in what we make,” the dissemination of those objects and ideas is incredibly important.

The Google Art Project is just the latest development in the long story of this dissemination, which has embraced the inventions of the printing press, camera, radio, television, and the Internet. Each has involved losses and gains of its own.

Future chapters in this accelerating story seem certain to see gaming and simulation technology employed to navigate museums virtually with far more viewer control and sensory information than Google currently offers.

The museum’s decision to launch its collaboration with Google on the anniversary of the heist was odd. Even odder was its failure even to acknowledge the coincidence at the launch. In some ways, it seemed symptomatic of the Gardner’s dysfunctional relationship with its own greatest disaster. The museum’s leaders know that curiosity about the heist generates huge public interest in the museum. And yet the fascination functions like fingers picking at an itchy scab. The wound can never heal.

But maybe there’s hope now on that front? Might the works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, Degas, and Flinck that were stolen 24 years ago be returned one day to the Gardner’s walls — not physically, but virtually? Younger online visitors might never know they went missing.
Sebastian Smee can be reached at