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Victorian munificence

This is the Maidstone Museum. Sadly, it doesn’t look like this any more. Somebody’s stuck a modern glass facade on it. Imagine vandalizing these fine Dutch gables.

It’s a really great museum, though. I hit town very early for my appointment (they often cancel trains and I’m a nervous traveller) so I got to spend more than an hour here.

The core of it is this Elizabethan house, Chillington Manor, and you enter through a collection that is probably some of the original period furnishings. Elaborate sideboards and chip carved boxes and chairs. Brown furniture. The main dining hall has a motion sensor that disconcertingly plays a pavane when you go in. I walked through that room a bunch of times and I was mighty sick of crumhorn by the end.

It was one of these ancient houses that has been added to over and over again, so there are unexpected rooms and half-height floors and cubbyholes everywhere. I got lost multiple ties and still didn’t see it all.

It was an odd, muddled collection like an old-fashioned town museum, but with world class objects. Wikipedia says it better:

The Museum is recognised as having the largest mixed collections in the county and one of the most important in the south-east of England, outside London. Whilst its origins are typical of a regional museum created through Victorian munificence, the work of collectors, staff and benefactors over almost 150 years has created a comprehensive collection of worldwide significance.

There was a section on dinosaurs, an Egyptian wing (with mummy!), a large natural history collection (read: stuffed animals), one of the most important Japanese collections in the country that I somehow managed to miss completely, glass, ceramics, art, a Hall of Frocks and The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment Museum.

I could entertain you for weeks with what I saw but, you’ll be relieved to hear, conditions were dark and most of my pictures suffered from camera shake. I can only hope to bore you for a few days.

June 8, 2023 — 5:52 pm
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