2.2 The interwar period

In the interwar period, interest moved towards the use of smaller historic buildings as local museums and folk museums. Folk museums had developed in Scandinavia from the late 19th century, and were very popular because visitors found them easy to relate to (Gailey 1998, 17-44). They provoked memory and nostalgia, and they evoked a way of life that many people regretted had been lost (Lowenthal 1985, 8, 175). The folk history described in historic houses used as or within folk museums was not always tied directly to the known history of that individual building, but often represented a 'typical' house.

The development of 'folk life' museums has been seen as one of the key developments in the presentation of the past in the 20th century, breaking from the linear history typical of museum interpretation, and introducing different ways of looking at the past (Walsh 1992, 39). This type of activity has been seen as a means of forging collective identity through cultural heritage (Foster 1991).

Some buildings opened for the first time as local museums, such as Bishop Hooper's Lodgings in Gloucester in 1933 and King John's House in Romsey, Kent (opened as a Tea Shop, sometimes described as a 'museum' from 1927, given to the town in 1965 and transferred to a historic building trust in 1979) (Allen 1999). A number of buildings were opened to the public as museums because they could not be fully interpreted as houses for lack of historical evidence. This was true of Anne of Cleves's House in Lewes, Sussex, which was opened by the Sussex Archaeological Society in 1923 (Poole 1996, 8). Anne of Cleves probably never visited this building, which was granted to her as part of her divorce settlement. The name is a 20th-century invention, the building having been known as 'The Porched House' until 1910 (Poole 1996). The first guidebook for the house reads, 'It would be interesting to know who had lived within these walls during their four or more centuries of existence, but I regret that there has not been time to make research into the story of the house and occupants' (Godfrey 1927, 3).


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