Why is there an American Museum in the UK?
The Museum’s founders, Dallas Pratt and John Judkyn, an anglo-American couple, wanted to show the achievements of Americans in the decorative arts and to show a British audience that there was more to America than stereotypical depictions commonly shown in Western films popular in the 1950s and 60s. They also wanted to foster the friendship and alliance between Britain and America that had been so important during the twentieth century’s two world wars.
John and Dallas already had a home at Freshford Manor near Bath, which John had made as a base for his antique exporting business. The best sources of antiques at the time came from the southwest and the proximity to Bristol’s port made shipping them to New York easier. It made sense to set up their museum in the Bath area. In 1958 Claverton Manor was put up for sale. The estate, which included 60 acres of garden, parkland, and woodland, provided the perfect opportunity to combine a museum experience with a country house visit. In addition to a fine exterior and magnificent setting Claverton Manor had room for a far larger collection than they had originally planned. As well as looking for a site for their proposed museum, John and Dallas started collecting objects to fill it. They spent 2 years travelling around the States sourcing objects. Through their contacts with American antique dealers and directors of large American museums, they had access to outstanding examples of furniture and furnishings, ensuring that the American Museum’s collection was the finest possible. This whirlwind collecting spree happened at just the right moment. Many historic houses in America were demolished during the 1950s. Consequently, Dallas and John were able to buy not only the furnishings for their historic rooms, but also the actual rooms as well. They shipped panelling, floorboards, window and door frames across the Atlantic. They wanted the rooms to look as if their original occupants had ‘just stepped out’. For each room, they sought what was needed to re-create a time, a place, the essence of lives lived. The Museum opened on 1 July 1961.
Why do I have to pay to see the Museum and Gardens?
The American Museum is a registered UK charity and non-profit organisation. Its mission is to ‘educate, stimulate, and inspire its visitors in order to further the understanding of American history and culture’. As an independent museum, it receives no government funds or tax revenues. Entrance fees help to pay for the upkeep of the Museum’s collections, buildings, and grounds, as well as help the Museum to fulfil its mission.
What is Gift Aid?
If you are a UK tax payer, for a slightly increased admission price, you can Gift Aid your admission and make it grow by a further 25% as the Museum can claim tax back on the whole amount paid. And it is still only 25% if you are a higher rate tax payer.
Can I get to the Museum by public transport?
Yes, the nearest railway station is Bath Spa. There are always taxis available outside the train station and it takes approximately 15 minutes. Buses also run from Bath city centre. Take the U1 or U2 (First Bus) to the University, alight at The Avenue just inside the University entrance, the Museum is a ten to fifteen minute downhill walk from the bus stop.
How long should I allow for my visit?
We suggest that you should allow at least three hours to visit all areas of the Museum, including the gardens.
Are dogs welcome?
Dogs, on a lead, are welcome in the gardens. Assistance dogs are permitted in all public areas, including inside the museum, exhibition, café and gift shop. Please clear up after your dog in all areas of the Museum’s grounds, parkland, arboretum, and trails.
Is the Museum wheelchair friendly?
All of the Museum buildings are wheelchair accessible (ramps in some places) and a lift is fitted within the main Museum building. The gardens are also accessible. Please see our Accessibility page for further information on accessibility and Tramper hire for the gardens.
Can I take photographs?
Photography and filming for personal use are allowed, unless a sign indicates otherwise. Flash photography and tripods are not permitted.
Can I picnic in the grounds?
We welcome picnics in the grounds during opening hours. We ask you to respect the beauty of the grounds and to remove all rubbish when you leave.
Is the Museum licensed for weddings?
Since May 2011 the Coach House and Stables have been licensed for civil wedding ceremonies. These buildings can be hired for both wedding and reception or a reception only.
Are you open all year? Can we arrange to visit when you are closed?
The Museum’s open season runs from mid-March to the end of December each year. During the closed period (end of December to mid-March) there is a great deal of work going on behind the scenes, so unfortunately there are no visits permitted during this period. We are closed on Mondays except Bank Holidays and during B&NES school holidays. Please check our Visit pages for up to date information on opening times.
Are pushchairs, baby backpacks, rucksacks, and mobility scooters allowed in the Museum?
Some internal doorways within the Museum are narrow (70cm) and there are tight turns at some points in the visitor route. In order to ensure the safety of our visitors and collections, mobility scooters and very large electric wheelchairs are not allowed within the Museum. Please contact us before visiting if you’d like advice about whether we can accommodate your electric wheelchair. Manual wheelchairs are available to borrow at Reception.
We welcome single-width pushchairs throughout the Museum. Unfortunately, double buggies are too wide for the narrow doorways in the Museum, so we will ask you to leave these at Reception. Baby pouches and ‘hippy-chicks’ are available to borrow. Please note that some areas of the grounds are steep and not suitable for pushchairs.
Baby-changing facilities are situated in the Exhibition Gallery, and breast-feeding is welcome everywhere.
Is the Museum child friendly?
The Museum is very child and baby friendly; the Garden Café has high chairs available, and there are baby-changing facilities in the Exhibition Gallery toilets.