Based on the title, you may be wondering why antiquarian horologist Brittany Cox doesn’t look centuries old. It’s because she isn’t. While her age has nothing to do with her profession, her job is ancient as it gets.
Brittany is one of the few people in America with a masters in horological conservation. This means she keeps old antiques working so they can be enjoyed by future generations. Specifically, she specializes in automatons – self-operating, creepy lifelike machines which follow a set sequence of operations.
In this video by Great Big Story, Brittany details the importance of preserving the craft and her constant fear of passing on without someone who knows how to look after her automatons.
The machines don’t use electricity. Instead, they are powered by a mishmash of springs, cogs, and tiny pieces of metal which bend and break over time. Since the machines themselves come from a bygone era, finding replacement parts isn’t as easy as going to a hardware store.
This is where Brittany comes in. Whenever she receives a broken automaton, she usually crafts the broken or missing piece herself to bring it back to life.
Be it a singing bird, a moving doll, or a music box, seeing an automata move on its own after having its parts replaced feels like bringing a beautiful Frankenstein monster back to life. Make no mistake, Brittany doesn’t make these machines from scratch; she simply fixes old ones which were made centuries ago. Though we wonder what wonderful creations she has thought up herself.
Though automatons have long since been surpassed by electronic machines, they are nevertheless an important part of human history. Here’s to hoping more people will join Brittany on her quest to preserve these intricate inventions!