Both inspiring artworks and important historical records, Thanet District Council’s prints collection bear witness to the development of ‘the original seaside’: Margate. The collections are housed at Margate Museum, managed by volunteers who make the prints accessible to the public. ‘Picture Margate’ has enhanced access to the collections, provided better preservation for the future and the project has helped the local community learn more about the history of the town.
Margate has been dubbed ‘the original seaside’ due to its strong claim to being the first seaside tourist destination. The legacy of the invention of the bathing machine and the first sea-bathing hospital in the Georgian period led to the Victorian expansion of Cliftonville, the mid-20th century popularity of the beaches and amusement arcades. ‘Picture Margate’ focused on the collection of c. 1200 uncatalogued prints, drawings, and watercolours owned by Thanet District Council and held at Margate Museum. This collection is a crucial resource for understanding the history of the town’s development, particularly in light of a devastating fire at Ramsgate Library in 2004 that destroyed the local history collection there, and the disappearance of a large volume of material during the 1970s transfer of materials to Kent County Council. Margate is on the rise as a cultural hub, as regeneration follows some decades of neglect, and this visual record of the town’s development is important to helping locals and visitors alike explore the town’s unique identity. The collection is known to include works by Henry Rowlandson as well as many locally important works by unknown artists.
The Picture Margate project provided the opportunity to purchase a collections management system that meets SPECTRUM standard. In addition the ability to display catalogued items through the Museum’s website has helped to widen access to the collection.