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Godalming Museum

Founded: 1921        Governance: Local Authority supported Independent Trust        Scope: Local History                     Visited: Autumn 2015

Virtually invisible to the outside world, you enter Godalming Museum through a door wedged between a sports shop and a delicatessen, along a shining little corridor a bit like an airlock giving access to another space entirely. This is a relatively well-heeled part of the world and small though it is the Museum looks as though a fair amount has been spent on keeping it up to date; and it manages to offer some rather beautiful arrangements of objects set within a slightly crazy old building in which beams and timber frame appear at unexpected angles. The first of the upstairs rooms has just been refurbished with a whistle-stop introduction to the town and its history and, thanks to a grant from the V&A, the Museum has managed to purchase local stained-glass artist Rachel Mulligan's gorgeous 'Labours of the Months' sequence, now resplendently displayed in the window. One of the welcome aspects is that there's no attempt to pretend that Godalming has always been a quaint little market town: in fact until about 40 years ago it was more of a centre of light industry and such it is presented here (although its role as a commuter settlement gets less of a look-in). Gertrude Jekyll's gardening boots and trowel are off in a side room, but frustratingly impossible to photograph. Godalming Museum also has the distinction of being the only historical collection where I have unexpectedly come across a photograph of myself, not in the gallery of local personalities illustrated here, but in a shot of the reopening of a cemetery chapel a couple of years ago!

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