Cabinet of Curiosities - The Study

Early collectors were amateurs who wanted to learn about the world by looking more closely at things. The Cabinet of Curiosities is filled with wonderful animals and objects collected from the late eighteenth century onwards, such as a duck-billed platypus, armadillo, anteater and Chinese pangolin; fossil fish and shells; shark’s jaw and two-headed shark specimen; narwhal tusk; beetles, butterflies and birds; seeds and stones.

Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution

Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution

Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum in Guildhall Street

The Beaney’s collections date back to the Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution, which grew out of the Canterbury Historical Society for the Cultivation of Useful Knowledge.

Founded in 1769 by a group of local men at a meeting called by silk weaver John Calloway, Canterbury Historical Society for the Cultivation of Useful Knowledge met every Tuesday evening at the Guildhall Tavern, home of one of the members, William Wiltshier. At the weekly meetings each member paid eightpence, sixpence of which was spent on beer and twopence added to the funds of the Society. The organisation’s aim was similar to that of ‘Mechanics Institutes’ in other cities, providing a forum for working men to share and develop their knowledge. The Society owned examples of ‘Mathematical Instruments’, including ones for making and storing electricity, as seen in the portrait of William Goulden. It also built up a large library of books, pamphlets and magazines.

In 1825 the members decided to re-form as the Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution, building a museum and library in Guildhall Street.

Canterbury ‘Phil & Lit’ Museum

A quotation on the title page of the first description of museum contents, published in 1826, sums up the Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution’s philosophy:

“It is the duty of every man to endeavour that something may be added by his industry to the hereditary aggregate of knowledge and happiness. To add much can indeed by the lot of few, but to add something, however little, every one may hope.”

([Dr] Johnson)

The museum contained the geological collection of Francis Crow, a clockmaker, inventor and geologist of Faversham and Margate, with many fossils and minerals. There were also birds, insects, shells and coins given by Institution members and the public. Sections of the museum included ‘Comparative Anatomy’ and objects illustrating ‘the Manners and Customs of different Nations’. Among ‘Miscellaneous’ items were ‘hairs from the head of Napoleon Bonaparte’.

Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum in the old Guildhall Street premises

Canterbury Museum in the old Guildhall Street premises, before moving to the Beaney Institute

In 1846 the Institution’s museum was bought by Canterbury Corporation. There had been national discussion about the need for town councils to establish museums and libraries, which led to an Act of Parliament in 1858. Access to books and objects was thought essential for education of working people. Canterbury Museum collections soon outgrew the Guildhall Street premises. Dr Beaney’s bequest of money for a Working Men’s Institute was used to construct a new building, the Beaney Institute, for the museum and free library. It opened in September 1899.

Items on display

William Goulden

1805, Stephen Hewson (1775 - 1807)

Oil on canvas

William Goulden (1749-1816) was a member of Canterbury Historical Society for the Cultivation of Useful Knowledge, which was founded in 1769 and met every Tuesday evening at the Guildhall Tavern.

He was one of two ‘Guardians of the Mathematical Instruments’. These included a brass telescope; an ‘electrical battery’ known as a Leyden jar, which he is holding in his right hand; and a ‘large electrical machine’ for generating electricity by friction, seen behind him.

When the Society re-formed in 1825 as Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution, Goulden was one of the founder members. Hewson painted portraits of three other founder members: John Calloway, silk weaver; Thomas Ridout, land surveyor; and Mr Cooper, holding an architectural plan (all in Canterbury Museums and Galleries collection). He also painted portraits of Canterbury’s Member of Parliament, Charles Robinson, and Alderman James Simmons, at around the same time. Hewson otherwise painted in the North and Midlands. He may have received the Canterbury commissions through Mechanics Institute networks.

Presented by Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution, 1846

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 3058

Drawer of South American insects

Drawer of South American insects

Presented by William Miller to Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution Museum and acquired through purchase of the Museum by Canterbury Corporation, 1846-47

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 2000.110.

Boxes of butterflies

Boxes of butterflies

Presented by Mr Hirst.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Chameleons

Chameleons

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference C120.

American feather star

American feather star

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Spiny anteater

Spiny anteater

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 095.2.

Alligator

Alligator

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Chinese pangolin

Chinese pangolin

An endangered species, pangolins are scaly anteaters that also live in Africa, India and South-East Asia. Their scales resemble a pinecone.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Spices and nuts in their natural state

Spices and nuts in their natural state

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 2000.24.3,5.

Goosander

Goosander

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference G97.

Great bustard

Great bustard

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference E57.

Purse

Purse

Reputed to have belonged to Oliver Cromwell.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4755.

Little bustard

Little bustard

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference E84.

Armadillo

Armadillo

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 1999.241.

Coc

Coc

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 1999.107.

Duck billed platypus

Duck billed platypus

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 096.

Ruff

Ruff

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference E69.

Toucan

Toucan

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 1999.42.

Tray of seeds

Tray of Seeds

Collected in British Guyana by Reverend R. Wyllie of Canterbury.

Presented by Rev. R. Wyllie.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 2000.28

Bronze cupid

Bronze cupid

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 1185 or 4136.

Bronze figure

Bronze figure

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4102.

Bronze head

bronze head

Presented by Mr Hirst.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4272.

Bronze cherub

Bronze cherub

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4126.

Bronze figure of a cloaked man

Bronze figure of a cloaked man

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4098.

Bronze medieval weight

bronze medieval weight

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4784(?).

Bronze figure

bronze figure

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4101.

Bronze pastry cutter

bronze pastry cutter

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4779.

Medallion showing Strasbourg Cathedral

Medallion showing Strasbourg Cathedral

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Halberd

Halberd

Combination axe and spear.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 10582.

Bronze lizard with a man's face

Bronze lizard with a man

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4139(?).

Figurine in a jousting pose

Figurine in a jousting pose

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4121.

Statuette

Statuette

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4125.

Statue of St Catherine

Statue of St Catherine

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Bronze figure of a wild man of the woods

Bronze figure of a wild man of the woods

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4567.

Bronze bell

Bronze bell

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 7906.

Small bronze bust

Small bronze bust

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4128.

Brush tailed possum

Brush tailed possum

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 1999.253.

Fossil Fish

fossil fish, on display at the Beaney Art Museum and Library

From Monte Bolca, Italy, a site rich in very well preserved marine fossils from the Eocene period, one of the first fossil sites to be known and studied. This particular fossil was given to Francis Crow by the Royal Institute of Paris and may have been part of the Haeberlein Collection looted by Napoleon. Its matching half is in the Louvre museum, Paris.

Presented by Francis Crow

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference A92

Souvenir coin in volcanic lava

Souvenir coin in volcanic lava

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 2004.270.

Tube containing volcanic dust and lapilli from an eruption of Vesuvius

Volcanic dust collected after an eruption of Vesuvius on 1 July 1907 by Mr Chinery of Orchard Street, Canterbury.

Presented by Mr Chinery, 1907

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 2004.304

Ammonite Pylloceras

Ammonite Pylloceras

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 1984.3.1.

Ammonite Pylloceras, cut and polished

Ammonite Pylloceras, cut and polished

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 1984.3.2.1.

Nautilus shells

Nautilus shells

Polished to reveal mother-of-pearl and cut to show the mathematical spiral of buoyancy chambers inside. Nautilus shells were much prized by collectors from the Renaissance onwards for their shape and lustre.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Model canoe of birch bark

Model canoe of birch bark

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4524.

Lion

lion

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 1999.249.

Narwhal tusk

Narwhal tusk

Given by Reverend Holman, who took part in the search for Sir John Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition to find the North-West passage.

Presented by Rev. Holman

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Burmese temple in glass dome

Burmese temple in glass dome

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Australian throwing boards

Australian throwing boards

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 4470, 4471.

Coco de mer seed

Coco de mer seed

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference 6442.

Sea mouse

The sea mouse is really a sea worm! It can grow to 6 inches long and 2 inches wide, and has 15 pairs of large scales on its back. The grey hairs give it its name; the longer bristle-like hairs are used for locomotion and defence – and it can move very quickly when it needs to. It lives below the seabed and eats organic debris in the mud.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Cochiti Pueblo snake-shaped vessel

Cochiti Pueblo snake-shaped vessel

The Cochiti Pueblo people of South America produce ceramics with animal forms and decorations. Our examples were acquired by a traveller in the late 19th century.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Cochiti Pueblo animal handled vessel

Cochiti Pueblo animal handled vessel

Typical of ceramics produced by the Cochiti Pueblo people of South America. Our examples were acquired by a traveller in the late 19th century.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Cochiti Pueblo three-legged vessel

Cochiti Pueblo three-legged vessel

Typical of ceramics produced by the Cochiti Pueblo people of South America. Our examples were acquired by a traveller in the late 19th century.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Hawksbill turtle shell

Hawksbill turtle shell

This turtle shell is turned inside out to see the interior structure.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).

Marble heads

marble head

Canterbury Museums and Galleries reference (nn).