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Celebrate National Museums Day

Alex Valentine
18th May 2022

Is there a better way to while away an afternoon than a wander around a museum? The centres for fascinating history, art and culture are always warm and welcoming, whether it’s their knowledgeable tour guides or friendly café staff! We’re so lucky that here in Kent we have an abundance of interesting museums, historical sites and memorials, from the historic and famous to the quirky and unique, so celebrate National Museums Day on 18th May with us as we walk you through our top cultural hotspots…

For the culture vulture

Newly opened after a huge £22 million refurbishment, we're excited to return to The Amelia, a centre for learning and collaboration in the heart of Tunbridge Wells. Enjoy their weekend family trails, Henry Moore art workshops and Rhyme Times classes – and look out for a special exhibition on fashion and diversity coming in the autumn! The passion for fashion continues at Maidstone Musuem this July with their new exhibition, ‘PANTS!’ - Why do we wear underwear? And what does your underwear say about you? Take a journey by the seat of your pants to discover everything you didn’t know about underwear! Meanwhile at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, state-of-the-art exhibition spaces showcase treasures from Anglo-Saxon finds and Dutch stained glass to the new ‘Unveiled’ this July. From Japanese Noh masks used in theatre to identify characters, to modern-day Instagram filters, this exhibition explores the relationship between revealing and concealing the self through masks, prints, paintings, film, and interactive filters.

Set sail for the museum 

When it comes to lessons in the Age of Sail, The Historic Dockyard Chatham has it covered! Discover the place where mighty ships were built, traverse centuries as you test your sea legs on everything from a Cold War submarine and the Victorian HMS Gannet to a Second World War Destroyer and the incredible archaeological discoveries of the Namur and the Invincible.  Tie up the day with a visit to the Victorian Ropery and watch those Master Ropemakers use centuries old techniques and you’ll have stepped through the dockyard’s intriguing history, learning of the people who have worked here and the ships that have been built here. 

Over in The Isle of Thanet, Ramsgate Maritime Museum’s exhibits tells the maritime history of the area with permanent displays on the development of the Harbour, Navigation, Fishing, Lifeboats and Shipwrecks. Also, the Clock House is also the site of the unique Ramsgate Meridian - from which our own particular Mean Time - 5 mins 41 secs ahead of Greenwich- was calculated!

An aviation education 

At The Battle of Britain Memorial in Capel-le-Ferne, you have the chance to bring Kent's strong aviation past to life at their interactive onsite Scramble Experience exhibition. A moving film that depicts what life was really like for The Few during in the summer of 1940, and with hands-on things to do, including the chance to shoot down enemy aircraft from a mock-up Hurricane, fledgling historians will have a front-row seat as they discover how the Battle changed the course of history. Explore more of Kent's aviation past at RAF Manston History Museum, which takes you back to over 100 years of the of the airfield site's history. 

That's ancient history...

Explore the ancient town beneath your feet as you go back 100 years with each step down to the Roman street level at Canterbury Roman Museum. Relive the past as you stroll through the marketplace where you will see what people would have bought and how they lived. Pop your head into recreated Roman rooms to learn all about life during this ancient era. As you wander through this museum you will uncover a hoard of once buried treasures including the remains of a Roman town house with preserved mosaics. The museum holds one of the UK’s only remaining Roman pavement mosaics which has not been moved from its original place, and it provides a fascinating insight into life in Roman Britain.

Celebrate our famous faces

This year take a trip back in time to Victorian England with the Charles Dickens Great Expectations Trail at Rochester Guildhall Museum. The Making of Mr Dickens is a new permanent exhibition where visitors can enjoy an exciting and immersive journey through Dickens’ life in Medway, while exploring the people and places which shaped his complex personal and public life and inspired him to create some of the most beloved stories in English literature. Finally, go deeper into Dickens’ Kentish life at The Dickens House Museum to explore Dickens’ relationship with Broadstairs through his letters and personal items.

Explore further afield

From Ancient Egypt to Japan and beyond, Chiddingstone Castle is home to five impressive collections which are the lifetime’s work by one gifted collector. These collections are displayed throughout the historic house, which was his home from 1955 to 1977 and now you can discover why this spot has been crowned, ‘the best Egyptian collection outside the British Museum’!

Similarly, hidden within Quex Park is The Powell-Cotton Museum. Founded in 1896 by a former resident of Quex, Percy Powell-Cotton, this natural history museum showcases a huge personal collection of taxidermy and artefacts from his travels in Asia and Africa. Many of the animal specimens are displayed in dioramas with painted backdrops, which are considered to be the most impressive in Europe.

The weird and wonderful!

Need a way to get the kids off the screens and out into the world? We think a trip to The Micro Museum is exactly what you need! It’s the place to discover computer history, see old tech and play on forgotten, and much loved, retro videogames! Learn about the inventors of the digital age, and finally explain to the kids that yes, Pacman really was *everything* to us once! For more of the weird and wonderful, head to This Museum is (NOT) Obsolete - an interactive museum celebrating obsolete/experimental electronic technology, and only in Kent will you find Europe’s #1 Crab Museum. Yep, that’s right! This satisfying tourist attraction is one of our favourite spots for a unique and quirky day out learning all there is to know about the decapod.

Recall your religious history 

We couldn’t not mention UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canterbury Cathedral, as one of our key historical sites you must visit on your travels in Kent! Now, a major new exhibition in Canterbury Cathedral’s Crypt allows visitors to explore up close, for the first time, a unique collection of artefacts – including the battle shield, gauntlets and jupon of medieval warrior Edward The Black Prince, and fragments of Thomas Becket’s shrine – that tell the complex, and often violent, story of Church-State relations. The exhibition focuses on the complex relationship between Church and State and the struggles between archbishops and kings, with a particular focus on Canterbury Cathedral’s important role within this relationship, illustrated in the Cathedral’s buildings, collections, and the stories of its people. The exhibition is free to enter with Cathedral entry, and runs throughout 2022.

Uncover local roots

Margate Museum covers over 5000 – yes, 5000! – years of the town's history. The Cells and Magistrates Court hold a unique collection of Margate history, including that of the Borough Police from 1857, sea bathing & bathing machines, the 1815 arrival of Paddle Steamers, Cobb's Brewery & Bank, Punch & Judy, and Donkeys on the Beach. There are exhibits about Margate during the two World Wars, Roman-British history, Dr. David Jarvis' Wooden Jetty of 1824, and Eugenius Birch's Iron Jetty of 1857. Likewise, discover some fascinating local history in Sevenoaks this year – from the role of Sevenoaks women during World War Two, or Sevenoaks over the last 900 years and an exploration of Medieval and Tudor objects from the ruins of Otford Palace, in partnership with the Archbishop's Palace Conservation Trust. All these can be found at Kaleidoscope Gallery Sevenoaks throughout the spring.

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