The History of Time Mural - Santa Barbara, CA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member DougK
N 34° 25.450 W 119° 42.158
11S E 251631 N 3812501
Quick Description: The History of Time is a mural by local artists Ed Lister to decorate the walls of the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery on the third floor in Santa Barbara's County Courthouse Clock Tower.
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 7/30/2012 7:13:31 PM
Waymark Code: WMF01J
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Outspoken1
Views: 1

Long Description:
Santa Barbara's newest museum, the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery, opened April 27, 2012 after two years of work and planning.

The museum is located high in the Santa Barbara Courthouse Tower. It features a clock gallery, this beautiful three-wall mural, and a look at the inner workings of the newly renovated mechanical clock. The clockworks in this room actually drives the clock faces on all four sides of the Courthouse Clock Tower. Four rods can be seen in the picture going through the walls of the mural to the clock faces on the wall outside.

A rotating panorama picture taken inside the clockworks room is available on the web.

The story and description of the "History of Time" mural as told by local artist, Ed Lister, to the Montecito Journal (PDF):

When VISTA volunteer Dr. David Bisno, an ophthalmologist by trade, first visited the clockworks inside theSanta Barbara County Courthouse,he was taken aback by the sad state of the mechanical wonder. Among those he discussed the condition of the clockworks with was Dick Schall , a “clock nut” who, along with his wife, Maryan, collected vintage clocks. David and Dick talked about the impressive circa-1929 Connecticut-made Seth Thomas clock in the tower, which was functioning but could not be seen, as it was hidden from the public behind a wooden wall amidst janitorial supplies, brushes, ladders, chairs, and other flotsam.

Deciding the clockwork should be seen, they both agreed to sponsor construction of a small gallery space,along with a mural depicting the history of time. They of course would clean up the clock, put it in good order, and present written explanations of time and the clock for general viewing.

They found Mostyn Gale, theSanta Barbara County Courthouse’s part-time Clock Master, who cleaned up the clockwork, painted bits and pieces and put it in good order. When it came time to find a muralist, David’s wife, Fay, searched the internet; she went to “muralists in California,” then “muralists in Southern California,” and finally,“muralists in Santa Barbara.” “Then she came up with my name,” muralist Ed Lister explains as we climb the stairs to the clock tower. “I’d met her ten years before,” Ed continues, “because she, as a kid (in the 1950s), used to run around [theGeorge Washington Smith-designed house off APS] I was living in at the time. It was the house where she spent a good part of her childhood.She came by to show her husband the place where she grew up.”

Lister once created backdrops for movies, “big stuff, for TV, commercials, and that sort of thing,” he says ( is his website). “But, when we moved herein 1995 (to bring the kids up in Santa Barbara), jobs stopped dead,” he adds.

When Fay called and asked if he’d be interested in doing a mural, Ed responded positively. David then directed Ed to paint the history of time, and how it applied to the Chumash. “Well, the Chumash didn’t really have an interest in time,” Ed says with a laugh. “They ground up acorns, caught salmon and ate them,and that was it. It didn’t matter what time of day it was. They didn’t plant stuff they didn’t have calendars; they didn’t really care about time.They didn’t have a need for time. I pointed that out to David and he said, ‘Well, do what you can,’” leaving it up to Lister to decide what to put on the 7-foot-high, 56-foot-long mural.

The mural begins with Stonehenge, “which had a notion of time passing. It’s an annual clock, if you like,” Ed says. From there, Ed painted a Roman sundial, an Egyptian water clock, the mysterious bronze 2,200-year-old Antikythera Mechanism with its 72 cogs and wheels found by sponge divers over a hundred years ago on the ocean floor near the island of Antikythera in Greece. Further along is an astrolabe, a 13th-century European hourglass, a Greek obelisk,a portrait of Ptolemy studying the moon and a fusee (a compensating device for controlling the energy given up by a metal flywheel).Pictured too are the first clocks at St.Albans and Canterbury in England (made about 1256). Ed did get around to including the Chumas hand portrays them standing on the shore as they view the first landing of the Spanish. Further along, there is a Chauncey Jerome clock from Connecticut, the first mass produced U.S.-made clocks to be exported to England (circa 1820-1850).

A portrait of Eli Terry, a carpenter who made a clock out of wood and partnered with Seth Thomas, graces the mural as does Sir Sandford Fleming, who came up with the idea of worldwide time zones and Greenwich Mean Time (MeridianZero). Once Lister gets into the 20th-century, Santa Barbara’s train station appears near Albert Einstein whose days at the patent office working with clock-like inventions led to his theory of general relativity. There is also a flock of tongue-in-cheek birds representing how “time flies,”Hamilton watches, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, the Spirit of St.Louis (made in Long Beach), and the Flamstead House in Greenwich, whose globe on top of its observatory dropped at 1 pm daily allowing passing ships to set their time by it.

“The reason most of the portraits are of Englishmen,” Lister (who was born in Kent, England and retains a thick British accent) suggests, is because “most of the heroes of horology were English,” although there is one Dutchman, Christiaan Huygens,who developed advanced pendulum clocks in the 1650s.

Ed’s son Charles, an art student in San Francisco, helped with the portraits.

Curiously, the “bells” hanging inside the clock tower are made of fiberglass and were never meant to be struck, although 80-pound hammers were commissioned and paid for; one sits on the floor under one of the bells. “The choice in 1929,” Ed explains, “was to either save money and include a nice viewing platform, or spend money on real bells but have no viewers.” They chose a viewing tower.

When the clock is up and running, hammers will stop just short of striking the fiberglass bells, and sensors will allow a “Big Ben” sound to emanate. How often those bells will“ring” is yet to be determined.

The Clock tower gallery was meant to be finished by January 2011, then April, “but the [reconstruction of the] fountain held it up and it was put on the back burner,” Ed explains. By the time you are reading this, the mural and the clockworks should be available for public viewing.

City: Santa Barbara

Location Name: Clock Tower of Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Artist: Ed Lister

Date: 2012

Media: Paint on wood

Relevant Web Site: [Web Link]

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