Press Release

17 June 2013

When visualising a museum, you tend to picture an old building with glass cabinets full of ancient artifacts. However, have you ever considered exploring a museum through a computer?

Giles Guthrie, Collection Manager at Maidstone Museum, Kirsty Belchem, American Studies student and Dr Sam Hitchmough, Project Director
Giles Guthrie, Collection Manager at Maidstone Museum, Kirsty Belchem, American Studies student and Dr Sam Hitchmough, Project Director

Programme Director of American Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University Dr Sam Hitchmough has created a virtual museum of the items collected by eccentric Victorian explorer, Julius Brenchley. The launch of the virtual museum, known as the Brenchley Project, aims to allow the public to access the findings of 19th Century Kent explorer who travelled around Native America looking for examples of local crafts and workmanship.

On his travels, he collected a number of exotic and extraordinary items that he brought back to his hometown in Maidstone, housing them in Maidstone Museum. The items that he collected vary from ceremonial masks to children’s toys, and even include the arrow taken from a wound to his neck during his travels.

The digitised collection was created as a part of a collaboration between Canterbury Christ Church University and Maidstone Museum, allowing a much wider audience to view the remarkable objects collected between 1849 and 1861.

The project was initiated by Dr Sam Hitchmough who teaches several Native American history courses at Christ Church. “The aim of the project was to photograph the 220 items and digitise them to make them available to all in a virtual museum.

“Around 90% of the collection has not been on public display but our virtual museum now opens up the collection to a worldwide audience.

“The Brenchley Project is also a platform for research on a number of levels. The project website has a bank of educational resources aimed at both primary and secondary schools where they can use Brenchley’s travels and collection to explore issues such as stereotyping and representation.”

The project team is also launching a series of events taking place throughout the next year at Canterbury Christ Church and Maidstone Museum. The events will include family totem pole making sessions, public lectures and storytelling.

The scale of the project has also opened up learning opportunities at Canterbury Christ Church University with the collection and website integrated into the American Studies degree. Students have created assessed projects and explored a wide variety of issues that stemmed from Brenchley’s items and their significance, adding to the research undertaken by Dr Hitchmough and his team.

Notes to Editor

The Brenchley Project

To view the virtual museum and to find out more about The Brenchley Project, visit the website here;

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With nearly 20,000 students, across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 93% of our recent UK undergraduates are in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • Christ Church is the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2011 UCAS).
  • We are the South East’s largest provider of courses for public service careers (outside of London).

*2010/11 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey American Studies


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Last edited: 14/12/2018 22:16:00