Letter: A museum neither fake nor phoney, but a genuine part of Kent's rural heritage

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The Independent Online
Sir: I read with interest, and some surprise, Nicholas Roe's article 'A nasty cottage industry' (3 May). I find it difficult to comprehend how he can accuse the Museum of Kent Life of 'tackiness', 'mindless leisure', 'theme park Britain', 'stylised landscape' and many other tired cliches without having actually visited it. If he had visited the museum, he would have seen that, in fact, we actually farm the land - hop garden, kitchen garden, herb garden, orchard, cobnut platt- as well as being involved in animal husbandry - goats, sheep, cattle, poultry, donkeys, horses. In our displays, we do not refrain from showing the grim conditions of rural communities in the past.

Certainly we hope that our visitors will have an enjoyable day out - but one that is also informative and which does not portray life in the countryside through rose-coloured spectacles.

While I have sympathy with much of what Mr Roe says about the decline in village life, there was the opportunity to write seriously about this subject. Unfortunately, he chose rather to purvey a hackneyed theory about the blurred distinction between fiction and reality, while throwing in some fanciful and unsubstantiated assertions of his own.

To make the Museum of Kent Life a party to the destruction of village life is to give us a significance way beyond what we merit. We are simply a museum interpreting rural life in Kent between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries in an honest and decent way. We are neither fake nor phoney.

Yours faithfully,

NIGEL CHEW

General Manager

Museum of Kent Life Cobtree

Maidstone

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