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Cabinet of Curiosities

Location: The Study

Early collectors were amateurs who wanted to learn about the world by looking more closely at things. The Cabinet of Curiosities is filled with wonderful animals and objects collected from the late eighteenth century onwards, such as a duck-billed platypus, armadillo, anteater and Chinese pangolin; fossil fish and shells; shark's jaw and two-headed shark specimen; narwhal tusk; beetles, butterflies and birds; seeds and stones.

The Beaney's collections date back to the Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution, which grew out of the Canterbury Historical Society for the Cultivation of Useful Knowledge. Founded in 1769 by a group of local men at a meeting called by silk weaver John Calloway, the Society met every Tuesday evening at the Guildhall Tavern. Each member on entering the room paid eightpence, sixpence of which was spent on beer and twopence added to the funds of the Society. It was similar to Mechanics Institutes in other cities, providing a forum for working men to share and develop knowledge. The Society owned examples of 'Mathematical Instruments', including ones for making and storing electricity, as seen in the portrait of William Goulden. It also built up a large library of books, pamphlets and magazines. In 1825 the members decided to re-form as the Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution, building a museum and library in Guildhall Street.

Items on dislay include:

  • Platypus
  • Chinese pangolin
  • Chameleons
  • Tropical seeds
Chinese Pangolin on display at the Beaney

Chinese pangolin. An endangered species, pangolins are scaly anteaters that also live in Africa, India and South-East Asia.