The Peasant Arts Museum

'one of the most hopeful things in humanity'

The Peasant Arts Museum

The Museum officially opened in 1910, Joseph King was its Curator, Blount its treasurer and MacDonald, Chairman. It was initially housed above a shop at no. l, The Pavement in Haslemere High Street. Opening daily, the admission was 6d but was free on Wednesdays. The first recorded visitor is Gerald Davies on the 23 April 1910. He opened the Museum with a stirring speech on his hopes for the venture, calling peasant art 'one of the most hopeful things in humanity' and asking his audience to 'revolt against this dreary life, so highly machined that all the vitality went out of it'. The Peasant Art Guild owned the collection in a separate trust with charitable status to avoid the risk of having to sell it to relieve any debts incurred by any other part of the Guild's activities.

The Peasant Arts Museum, Haslemere, Surrey, UK

 

In 1911 an account was published to state the Museum's aims. It acknowl­edged that other centres held far more literature and knowledge on the subject than it ever would but felt that with their emphasis on everyday life, it could encourage emulation of some of the traditions upheld in the work of 'pride and pleasure'. The Museum was to provide an example of a perfect existence, in harmony with nature, that all right thinking people should aspire to. In 1912 the collection moved from the High Street to Foundry Meadows in Kings Road (now numbers 38 to 40). The display space was thoroughly inadequate and the problem only grew as more items were added to the collection. In such cramped conditions it could not be the 'fountain of inspiration' that was intended. Fundraising literature from 1913 shows that money was always a problem. The costs for upkeep usually fell on the Trustees; King, Blount and MacDonald. A subscription was launched but plans for a new home were wrecked in 1914 by the outbreak of war. The collection had grown from Davies' original 600 objects to nearly 700 by 1926.