Located on Station Road on the north side of the River Greta, Keswick Museum and Art Gallery includes a fascinating, often weird but always wonderful collection of artefacts. There are about 20,000 objects in total, covering archaeology, fine art, decorative art, social history, natural history, geology, industrial history and literature. Where else could you hope to find a 700-year-old naturally mummified cat competing for attention with clogs once worn by the Poet Laureate Robert Southey or the original manuscript of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? And who, once they’d seen and heard them, could forget the glockenspiel-like Musical Stones of Skiddaw, made from chunks of metamorphic rocks called hornfells? Played by royal command at Buckingham Palace in the nineteenth century, today anyone can try their hand at this unusual type of ‘rock’ music.
There is also a room dedicated to artefacts cared for by the Threlkeld-based Mountain Heritage Trust – exhibits that change on a rotating basis. In recent years, exhibitions have examined the role of World War One on the climbing community and early expeditions to Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain.
Keswick Museum and Art Gallery has occupied its current site, overlooking Fitz Park, since 1898 – and was Cumbria’s first purpose-built museum. In 2014, it underwent a major refurbishment that transformed it from a tired old provincial museum to a vibrant place with bright and airy galleries. All areas, apart from the research room, are now wheelchair accessible. The museum also has a café which proves particularly popular on sunny days when everyone heads outside, on to the large outdoor seating area next to the park.