This article appeared in the Spring 1973 (Issue #31) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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Dover Corporation Museum.
The original Museum was founded in 1836 and housed in the old Guildhall in the Market Square where it consisted of a Library, Lecture rooms and Museum. These facilities were available to members of "The Museum and Philosophical Institute," the annual subscription being twelve shillings. In 1838 the premises were open to the public on ONE day per week. The Corporation took overall control in 1846. Two years later a new building was erected in Market Square, the ground floor to be used as a covered market and the upper floors as a Museum.
During the period of the second World War, the Museum was destroyed by enemy action and two thirds of, the contents were lost or severely damaged. In November, 1949, the Museum re-opened in its present location under the Connaught Hall in Ladywell (which was opened in 1883 by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught). This location lends itself to a museum "housing" as it was the prison exercise yard prior to 1883. The "Phoenix" had truly re-awakened under the Honorary Curatorship of Mr F L Warner, ARPS, FRSA There was no charge for admission and the general public were encouraged to donate or loan items for exhibition. The yearly attendance had risen to between 24,000 and 26,000.
In 1964, Mr Warner, then aged 89, retired and was succeeded by Mr. Francis McQueeney, again in an honorary capacity, as part-time Curator. The next eight years saw a complete overall re-arrangement and conversion, new lighting, flooring and reorganisation. By 1971 the annual attendance figures were 52,880.
THE PRESENT POSITION.
To assist the Curator there is a full-time Clerk/Secretary and also a full-time Custodian/Attendant who is responsible for cleaning, as well as patrol of the premises.
There are, on average, about 30 to 35 enquiries by letter or personal call per week from all parts of the world.
The number of organised school parties has proved beyond doubt that the co-operation between schools and Museum is paying dividends. We instituted a "Quiz" sheet as an "aide memoire" for the children and the Curator gives short talks on various subjects to parties within the Museum, or calls by arrangement at the school, prior to a Museum visit, to give a talk on, for example, History of Transport, Roman remains, Bronze Age people, Horology, etc.
Many fine collections are now housed in the main Museum, including Lepidoptera, Oology, Horology, Ceramics, Treen etc. The items to catch the eye of the visitor are centred on Diorama depicting the long history of Dover from 4,000 BC. These include many items relative to the Bronze, Iron, Roman and Dark Ages.
The History of Transport on Land, Sea and Air has one complete bay depicting a complete chronological rundown of Trams and Buses. Road, Rail and Sea are shown in model form. Chairs, Tapestry work, Art and Victoriana are shown to good effect and one case contains some 160 copy Cinque Ports Seals. Ceramics vie with Cameras, Typewriters, Cash Registers and Geology. Dover's connection with the Military and Naval forces as a garrison town is shown in over 300 cap badges and other items of Militaria. There are some mammals, birds plus items of the Orient.
The front entrance is the domain of "Fred Bear" who does a fine job in the dual capacity of Doorkeeper/Guardian and is a great favourite with children of all ages. There is a connection between Dover and the Polar Regions. Dr Koettlitz, a Dover General Practitioner, was Surgeon to the Jackson-Harmsworth Polar Research Expedition, 1894 to 1897 and brought back the Polar Bear as a trophy. Dr Koettlitz was also Senior Medical Officer to the ill-fated Antarctic Expedition under Captain Scott.
Our Research library assists us in the answering of the large number of enquiries on a wide range of subjects.
The total exhibition area is approximately 5,000 square feet and is used to full effect for display.
The Corporation, in their wisdom, have decided NOT to make any charge for admission, but a voluntary contribution box is affixed near the entrance for the public to show some appreciation.