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Jersey Museum & Art Gallery

Founded: not sure        Governance: Independent Trust        Scope: Local history    Visited: Spring 2016

In the right light, the Museum building, with its top-floor cream-coloured loggia, looks a bit like it belongs in Portmeirion. It's part of Jersey Heritage, a catch-all trust whose portfolio includes castles and other attractions as well as the Museum itself. You enter through a generous if slightly dark foyer, a bit like going into a cinema; our next turn was to take the splendid Jamaican mahogany stairs into the Merchant's House next door to the Museum building proper, beautifully refurbished and reconstructed to illustrate the lives of the people who inhabited it at the moment in 1869 when the paterfamilias, Dr Ginestet, and his family left after the failure of his homeopathic medical practice, and fled to France to escape debt. It looks really good, although there's not much in the way of orientation and context. Back in the Museum proper, we found a few heterogeneous and unexplained bits and pieces on a stairwell and were just wondering how rewarding this somewhat pricey experience was actually going to be when we entered the world of 'Ice Age Island', an exploration of the formation not just of Jersey but of the British Isles more widely, partly devised by the Natural History Museum in London and, at least as far as I was concerned, only partly comprehensible. A floor below, however, brought us to the Story of Jersey which is a much more orthodox local history gallery and very neatly put together, dealing with a lot within a not all that expansive space. We thought the cigar-store Scotsman was probably being depicted in the process of taking snuff. As far as I was concerned the most charismatic object was Chevalier's Diary, a 17th-century manuscript battered, beaten, and yet surviving to bring the Stuart governor's words down four hundred years. That's Lilly Langtry's nicely-understated dressing case you can see in the first snap. I'm not saying that's as moving, somehow.

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