Questers’ Visit to the American Museum & Gardens

On Thursday 31 May 2022, a group of 17 Questers undertook a visit to The American Museum at Claverton Manor just outside Bath. This museum is said to be the only museum of Americana outside of the USA. It was opened to the public in 1961 and its purpose is to bring American history and cultures to the people of United Kingdom and Europe. It focuses on the period from the 14th to the 20th centuries.

Transportation to the site was provided by a minibus hired from Unity in Andover, arranged and ably driven by Robert Kemp. We had a full minibus of Robert plus 16 passengers. We even had a short waiting list of interested members who unfortunately couldn’t be accommodated this time.

After a warm welcome by the head of Reception, members had a short period to enjoy a cup of tea/coffee at their on-site Café. We then went of a 45-minute guided tour of the gardens adjacent to the manor house. The tour guide, volunteer Rosemary, gave us a most informative narrative of the background to the development of the gardens and an introduction to the many American plants and trees displayed in it. The tour was briefly interrupted by a short rain shower but fortunately we could resume the tour soon afterwards. One small part of the garden incorporates a reduced size replica of the gardens at George Washington’s home Mount Vernon. There are also a number of head-and-shoulder sculptures of famous American persons as well as Sir Winston Churchill located along one of the pathways.

Members were then free to have lunch and start their own tours of the museum in the manor house as well as the special exhibit entitled ‘Dress to Redress’ – Exploring Native American Material Culture. The on-site Garden Café offered a wide variety of snacks, light meals and hot and cold drinks at very reasonable prices. This was well supported and appreciated by our group.

The museum turned out to offer a very wide selection of artefacts and displays covering the development of the United States from its very beginning. There was a very well-illustrated history of the evolution of the country from its very early colonial days. Displays also covered the two primary conflicts during those early years of the War of Independence and the Civil War. The conflicts and sometimes poor treatment of the Native American peoples was also covered with reasonable sensitivity.

There were several rooms in the manor house that have been laid out with authentic period displays using internal panelling brought from genuine American period homes as well as appropriate furniture so that one moves into the actual room environments that reflected various types of housing common to various parts of the States. There was also on display a selection of the museum’s huge collection of American quilts.

The general reaction of most members was that the museum offered a much more varied display of the history of the USA through artifacts and information than had been expected. It was infinitely more than a display of American quilts and stitch craft items as was thought to be its main focus. The visit therefore proved to be highly informative and very enjoyable.

Cecil Rose

Posted in Questers Group.