When you think of New Jersey, a world-class collection of mechanical musical instruments and automata isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind. Yet that is exactly what the Morris Museum offers.
Most of the museum, a catchall establishment for art, science, theatre and history, is somewhat spare, but the permanent exhibition Musical Machines & Living Dolls is worth the visit alone. The strange setting for this incredible collection is due one passionate collector’s lifetime of acquisition which he donated to the Morris Museum. With over 700 antique mechanical figures and machines, the collection is one of the largest in the world on public display.
The museum does a nice job displaying these fragile, if eerie, machines. Short films show the more delicate automatons in action and a daily demonstration displays some of the less delicate pieces. Beautiful and strange automatons line the walls behind glass cases, in sumptuous dress, with bright faces. Those that do not fit in the gallery are on display in the basement, a storeroom of lonely un-wound figures behind two panes of glass for curious visitors to peer at.
Know Before You Go
From 287 South (coming from the North) Take exit 35. Turn left at the top of the ramp onto 124 East (Madison Avenue). Turn left at the third traffic light (by Friendlys Restaurant) onto Normandy Heights Road. Proceed through the next light at Columbia Turnpike. The entrance to the Morris Museum is the first driveway on your left. From 287 North (coming from the South) Take exit 36A. Turn right at the top of the ramp onto Morris Avenue. Stay to your right at the fork in the road and follow signs for Route 510 (Morris Avenue turns into Columbia Turnpike). Make a left at the first traffic light onto Normandy Heights Road. The Morris Museum will be on your immediate left. (Note: Normandy is exactly one mile from exit 36A) From Route 24 West & Route 78 Take Route 24 West to Exit 2A onto Columbia Turnpike toward Morristown. At the fourth traffic light make a right onto Normandy Heights Road. The entrance to the museum is the first driveway on the left. From the Lincoln Tunnel Take the New Jersey Turnpike South to exit 14 to Route 78 West and exit onto Route 24 West. Proceed as directed above from Route 24. From the Holland Tunnel Stay to the right and follow signs to the Turnpike. Take exit 14 to Route 78 West, exit at Route 24 West. Proceed as directed above from Route 24. From New York City via train Check the current train schedule on www.njtransit.com. Get off at the Morristown train station, which is two miles from the museum. Taking a cab from the train station is recommended. Some local cab companies include P&P Taxi Service (973.539.5903 or 973.539.1149) or Bumblebee Taxi and Limo (973.683.1313). Driving directions from the Morristown train station: Leave the train station parking lot by making a left onto Morris Avenue. At the fork, bear right onto Columbia Turnpike and make a left at the first light onto Normandy Heights Road. The Morris Museum is the first building on the left.