Remembering Bob Rolfe


The Division of Work and Industry lost a great friend and collaborator with the passing of Robert “Bob” Rolfe in late April.

Bob came to the National Museum of American History to volunteer after he retired in 1979 from the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in White Oak, Maryland. At the lab, as a senior engineer, he had worked on sonar. At the museum, he put his passion for watches to work. He stayed for over 20 years, week in and week out, building a computer database for the museum’s thousands of watches and then filling the database’s fields to catalog the collection from his expert knowledge. During preparations for a new timekeeping exhibition called On Time, he even disassembled and cleaned scores of American watches so that they could be photographed and displayed at their best.

Bob was the model volunteer—personable, dedicated, hard-working, self-directed, organized, and modest. His grin was contagious.


We owe Bob an enormous debt for the gifts of his time, his work, and his friendship. We will miss him.

Carlene Stephens is a curator in the Division of Work and Industry at the National Museum of American History.