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Lawrence House Museum, Launceston

Founded: Not sure        Governance: LA-supported Independent Trust        Scope: Local history    Visited: Spring 2014

Launceston, the one-time County Town of Cornwall, is the sort of place which should have a lot of history but which doesn't quite make the best of it: it didn't help that we visited on a damp early-closing afternoon when even the grandiose parish church was locked up. Lawrence House is owned by the National Trust but leased to the Town Council, and coming into the museum feels a little like being an interloper in someone else's home: the effect is particularly acute when you find yourself in the Mayor's Parlour, a room which still performs that civic function on occasion. As one often finds in small local museums, the collection isn't organised around an historical scheme, but the galleries are randomly arranged according to what happens to be in the collection, in this case a gathering of general local history material plus a display about Launceston's 'famous sons' [sic]. I see that the charming juxtapositions and arrangements I've chosen to photograph, from a descent of hats to antique books to a parade of old vacuum cleaners, are completely different from the things the Museum itself would like to highlight. Both the delights and frustrations of this collection are epitomised by the display case containing a chunk of bone which, so a label tells us, is what remains of 'The Screaming Skull of Tresmarrow' - but offers nothing of its history or nature!

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