On our recent visit to Bristol, to visit with my eldest son and his partner, we took a day to go to the American Museum in Bath.’ The museum takes you on a journey through the history of America, from its early settlers to the 20th century and illustrates the complexity of American culture through its remarkable collections of folk and decorative arts. Its furniture, paintings, maps, quilts, silver and glass are presented in a series of period rooms within a historic manor house near Bath in the beautiful Avon Valley in the West of England.
The museum grounds encompass 125 acres of parkland, gardens, and an arboretum and throughout the year, children’s activities, living history, workshops, lectures and seasonal celebrations are all part of the life of the Museum.
The only museum of Americana outside the United States, The American Museum in Britain was founded to bring American history and cultures to the people of Britain and Europe.’
The museum was founded in 1961 by two men who had a great love for the decorative arts of America and who wanted to share this passion with the people of Britain. They were Dallas Pratt, an American psychiatrist who served in World War II and his partner John Judkyn, a British antiques dealer. In the 1950’s they were struck with the popularity of newly established historic site museums such as Winterthur, Williamsburg, Sturbridge Village and Historic Deerfield. So why not found a museum to demonstrate that America was more complex than in the Hollywood movies people were familiar with?
Acquiring a 19th century manor housse near Bath to display their collections, the founders planned a series of period rooms for their decorative arts collections and the interpretation of American life.’ from the ‘Aspects of America’ guidebook.
Here are some of the pictures Larry and I took when we visited:
The house itself is beautiful and the view from the front is spectacular.
This is the view from the front:
‘This room is the ‘keeping room’ .17th century ‘keeping’ was a term used by colonists to describe where they lived. The Keeping Room includes a pedestal table that may have belonged to Peregrine White, who was born aboard the Mayflower’:
What follows is the ‘Stencilled Bedroom’ ca. 1830. ‘Stencilling was done by itinerant painters who travelled across the country decorating walls with paint, as a substitute for more expensive wallpaper. The popularity for stenciling travelled back across the Atlantic to Britain, where it also was used in the 19th century.’
We had such a good time here and looked and looked until we were too tired to look anymore! We had lunch in the beautiful refectory where all American food was served, which was nice for Larry because although he wouldn’t admit it, he must feel homesick sometimes.
After the house we visited the exhibition hall in the grounds where a Kaffe Fassett exhibition was being held. I wrote about it here if you missed it the first time round.