This, I think is my favourite museum outside London, it’s just 30 minutes away which means I’m able to go as often as I like and enjoy all it has to offer. And here’s hoping this blog will tempt you to visit too.
This photograph gives you some idea of the outstanding Regency building it’s housed in with the benefit too of being set in beautiful gardens along with outstanding views of the woodland across the valley.
So what it is that really draws me to the American Museum. Well everything about it! The beauty of the surroundings, a walk in the well kept yet never overcrowded gardens, and that the whole museum so well curated and kept. There are changing exhibitions in the old coach house which means there’s always something different to see, the restaurant serves light lunches which you can eat outside in the summer. Plants are sold from the end of the terrace giving the museum a homely rather than corporate feeling. The shop is good and of course the place is beautifully decorated at Christmas.
I’ve only been to the States a few times and my knowledge of American history isn’t good, but here everything is bought to life. Before you enter the front door there are two things that really impressed me, firstly a plaque showing that a 23 year old Winston Churchill made his first political speech – poinient when you remember he had an American mother too; and then there’s an old ‘Wagon’ immediately reminding me of how many people travelled across American to settle in the West.
Apart from admiring the beautiful architecture of the building itself inside you are taken on a time tour of the history of the United States. The basement houses a substantial collection of Native American costume and then as you enter the rooms on the ground and first floors you are taken through the development of how people lived from early rooms, interiors of family houses, Conkey’s Tavern, 17th Century Room, New Orleans Bedroom, Shaker Sister’s Worksroom, Pennsylvania German Room and a Greek Revival Room from New York – all original and imported from the States. And when you’ve enjoyed all this there is the famous Quilt Room. Here hang over 200 beautiful quilts ranging from the eighteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, and is acclaimed as the finest of its type in Europe and the equal of many premier collections in the United States. Over 50 quilts are always on view in the Textile Room (on the first floor of the Museum) and throughout the Period Rooms.
The Folk At Gallery opposite the shop is a delight, the staff at the museum are always well informed and so happy to share all they know. As I’ve said the gardens and changing exhibition in the Coach House only enhance a visit to this great museum. The American Museum in Britain remains the only museum outside the United States to showcase the decorative arts of America.
Opening times for 2015 from Saturday 14 March
14 March – 1 November, Tuesday – Sunday, 12noon-5pm
Closed Mondays, except during August and on Bank Holidays.
All Museum buildings and shops are open from 12noon. The Café serves light lunches from 12noon – 2pm. Afternoon teas, cold drinks, cookies, and ice cream are available until 5pm.
The grounds and car parks close at 5.30pm.
Bank Holidays and August Mondays 2015
3 April, 6 April, 4 May, 25 May & 31 August 12noon-5pm
Every Monday in August 12noon-5pm