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The only American museum outside of the US

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Just a kilometre or two to the east of the city of Bath, is a 19th century mansion, containing the American Museum – a little slice of the States in rural Somerset.
The house in question is Claverton Manor. It's situated in a 120-acre estate, overlooking the valley of the River Avon. In 1897, at the age of just 23, a fresh-faced Winston Churchill came here to deliver his first ever political speech.
In the mid-20th century, a team of three antique collectors took control of the property. One of them was American, one was British, and one had switched citizenship between the two. This trio had a deep interest in the United States, and its history. They filled Claverton with a comprehensive collection of artefacts and memorabilia. After several years of preparation, the American Museum was finally opened in 1961. Even today, many decades later, it remains the only public exhibition of Americana outside of the USA itself.
Instead of displaying its items behind lifeless glass cases, the museum places them in context, within themed period rooms. These include a 17th century home, an 18th century tavern, and an extravagant New Orleans bedroom from the eve of the Civil War. The rooms show the progression of American culture through the years. You can see how the country slowly stopped borrowing European styles, and developed its own.
Downstairs, in the basement, the Heritage Exhibition takes a broader look at US history. The interactive galleries tell the exciting stories of the founding fathers, the native Americans, and the Civil War.
The exhibits also explain about the various conflicts that have happened over the years. However, you won't find a single military piece inside Claverton Manor. This is because the museum's founders were strictly against violence, so they made sure their exhibits excluded such items.
What the collection does include is an extensive amount of furniture, as well as the best display of American folk art in Europe. The work on show includes paintings, carvings and sculpture. Another exhibition features a range of historical maps, from as early as the 12th century. By following the progress of these charts over the years, you can see how North America was gradually explored. It shows how the United States' came from being a newly discovered landmass, to a global superpower.
Visitor Information
The American Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays), Easter to the end of October, 12 noon to 5pm. Entry costs around £8 for adults, £5 child. Tel: 01225 460503

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