The American Museum opened to the public in 1961 – the achievement of four colleagues: Dr. Dallas Pratt (an American psychiatrist and collector), John Judkyn (a British born antiques dealer, who had become a United States citizen), Nick Bell Knight (a furniture restorer employed at nearby Freshford Manor, Judkyn’s business base in Britain) and Ian McCallum, the Museum’s first Director.
It was a transatlantic alliance. Dallas Pratt and John Judkyn considered establishing a Museum of Americana in Britain as early as 1956, after visiting several historic house and ‘living history’ museums in the United States.
Collecting for the Museum began in earnest in 1958, facilitated by Judkyn’s business contacts – each piece testifying to the artistry of Americans and how these people had lived in the past. Panelling and floors were also shipped over to Britain, enabling period rooms from demolished buildings in America to be reconstructed within the spacious interiors of Claverton Manor.
Many decades on, the American Museum remains the only museum outside the United States to showcase the decorative arts of America.
In this section
Why have an American Museum in Britain?
Video explaining why the American Museum in Britain is an important addition to our cultural landscape.
A Family Affair: The Bell-Knights and the Creation of the American Museum in Britain
Nick and Beryl Bell-Knight were integral to the successful establishment of this Museum. Beryl (1917-2007) was an accomplished seamstress working for ...
The furniture collections at the American Museum are showcased in Period Room settings to create a sense of how American families lived during the last 300 years