Jay Gaynor

Museums are full of stuff. objects, art, artifacts, documents – things I don’t even know about. But when you go to work in a museum, it becomes about people. It’s never about money. The people who work  in museums are there because of their interest and passion for study, for their collections, history – all that intertwined educational vibe. When you get involved with folks like that, it’s contagious. And memorable. I’ve made connections with people in museums that will stay with me always…

I read the news about Jay Gaynor’s sudden death today. http://anthonyhaycabinetmaker.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/in-memoriam-jay-gaynor/

I have known Jay for over 20 years, and always enjoyed our visits and work together. Jay knew tools, tool history and their relationships, forms, makers – he was a tool history fountain. Like many museum professionals I have known, what always struck me about Jay was even after decades of research and study, he was still passionately excited about the subject – in this case, woodworking tools.


plow plane, early 18th c
plow plane, early 18th c


One of my most memorable visits to Colonial Williamsburg, Jay, Jane Rees, Alexander & I, Mark Atchison and maybe Nathanial Krausse all spent a whole Sunday morning poring over the tools in CW’s storage collections. Jay kept pulling more & more tools out, telling us each one’s story, where it was made, by whom – how he got it…great stuff.


I can still see him & Jane Rees, sitting in the front row while I bantered away at Plimoth when EAIA came there not too long ago. All the while, I kept thinking, “what am I doing, lecturing these 2 about tools?” – but they were both encouraging, friendly and engaging. We’ll all miss Jay – even the jokes.


8 thoughts on “Jay Gaynor

  1. Jay was one of the few tool/ museum people who combined hands-on skills with excellent academic training. usually folks are in one camp or another. Jay was superb at both. I will miss him, and just as important- the trades will miss him, his insights, and and his ability to make hand work respectable to those who have no direct experience.

  2. What very sad news. I’ll always remember sharing tool finds with him and knowing he always had an answer to my questions. His vast knowledge was amazing, but most of all he was always gracious and just a very nice guy. He will be greatly missed.

  3. I have known Jay for over 20 years not primarily in his professional capacity, but in connection with one of his avocations, shooting the British longbow. We met at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Essington, Pa. And I was immediately drawn to Jay as an engaging and kind person.

    Shortly thereafter, Jay’s interest in the longbow prompted him to host an archery tournament in Williamsburg, which he continued annually for nearly 20 years, the most recent tourney being in May 2014.

    My annual trips to Williamsburg for the longbow event have truly been one of the highlights of my social calendar not only because of my interest in longbow, but mostly because it gave me the opportunity to renew in person my longstanding friendship with one of the gentlest and most generous persons I have ever known.

    Jay, I will miss you terribly

  4. Thanks for the great words, Peter. It’s been a shock to everyone in the historic trades. You always felt he had your back, no matter how much you succeed or stumble.
    Brian Weldy

  5. Jay hired me in 1985 to be his assistant, and from almost the very beginning we became good friends–a friendship that lasted almost 30 years. He taught me everything I know about tools, but even more, he taught me how to be a good curator and showed me, by example, what being a decent, caring person meant.

    As Brian notes, he was always there when I needed him, supported me in all that I did, gave me good advice and a push or two when I needed it. The variety of his enthusiasms never ceased to amaze me: Whether it was the longbow tournament (I worked on the logistics with him for the first few years, though never made it to one), telegraph equipment, World War II material culture, or Chinese-style furniture, he learned as much as he could about the subject and held himself to the highest standards.

    I will miss him terribly.

  6. What a nice way to say so long to a very special member of the preservation world Peter, thank you. Jay certainly was very kind and always willing to share. The Early American Industries Association (EAIA) was very special to him and he was currently serving, and had for many years, as the Chair of the Research Grants committee. He also served on the Endowment committee and attended meetings faithfully. He saw board service and leadership as something that good members do and for that he will be sorely missed. Thank you again for honoring him in your blog.

  7. So sad, I still remember that wonderful day at Williamsburg with Jay. I believe he enjoyed pulling the tools out more than we enjoy looking at the tools. Which is saying a lot because we really enjoyed looking at the tools.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s