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Permanent Gallery Update

We are making necessary changes to our permanent galleries, below you will find an outline of our plans along with some background information.

The American Museum & Gardens was founded to bring the best of American culture and design to UK based audiences and dispel stereotypes of American culture. We want to continue to inspire a new generation of visitors. We have plans to make updates throughout the Museum to meet expectations of the 21st century visitor and to enable us to continue to play an important role within the community. As part of these goals, we will address issues around the current narrative which is from a white Eurocentric viewpoint. We want and feel it is crucial that we provide a broader narrative that is more inclusive with diverse voices and perspectives.

The museum opened to the public in 1961 and many of the spaces of the Museum haven’t changed much between then and now. The exceptions are our American Heritage Galleries on the lower level of the Museum which we opened to the public in 2007 and our Folk Art Gallery which was refurbished in 2011. The remaining spaces of the Museum feature our period rooms which are a snapshot in time of a specific location and period of American History starting in 1690 through to 1860. We have begun to deliver changes to all of permanent galleries and with further funding we will make more significant changes longer term.

For the future, the ambition is to keep the majority of the period rooms as these are the heart of the Museum; however, we will be updating much of the content within the permanent displays and reviewing the visitor journey in order to meet needs of a wider audience and different learning styles.

We have several working groups and projects to support this work:

  • Internal – led by the Collections & Public Engagement Director, Chief Curator and Exhibitions and Interpretation Officer working with colleagues across the organisation to consider and understand a range of needs, including those of our current and potential audiences, through focus groups and research
  • Diversity and Inclusion Task Force – a group of Museum staff and volunteers who are championing change across the organisation
  • Advisory group – made up of external stakeholders including academics specialising in American culture, history, politics both present day and historic; local members of the community with expertise in community engagement and experiences that differ from those in-house; and museum professionals who specialise in decolonisation

We will be making changes in three phases:

  • Near-term: we have updated some of the graphics and displays throughout the American Heritage Galleries, further changes are coming throughout 2023.
  • Mid-term: new graphics in the period room to have a more modern look and feel along with information accessible on an app to provide more context to the period rooms such as: what was happening during the time period of the room, how did these events shape what is on display in the period room, what are the stories of the people who lived in them.
  • Long-term: a substantial overhaul of the museum to create zoning with a different theme for each level covering broad topics such as American Peoples, American Cultures and American Design where visitor pick and choose what they would like to see and in what order. A better orientation throughout the house that gives visitors a sense of what to expect, including an introductory space about the purpose of the museum, why it was founded and how. Better convey the relationship between house and gardens, by opening up some of the rooms to show views of the gardens and to talk about the design of the gardens and what makes them American. The addition of breakout spaces with opportunities for dialogues, discussion and reflection. The addition of more interactivity with opportunities to get closer to objects to understand how they were made and designed, to explore maps, and the addition of more images and stories of individuals, soundscapes and audio to bring the rooms alive.

We need your support to make these changes happen and are grateful for any donation. For more information on how to donate.

For questions on any of the changes or to find out about other ways you can support, please contact [email protected].