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The original musuem and library was founded in 1825 by the Canterbury Philosophical and Literary Institution and was purchased by the city in 1846 to make available the facilities to the public. As a result of a bequest by Dr. James George Beaney, a new building opened in 1899 intended to be an institute for working men and contained fine and decorative arts, natural history, ethnographic, geological, and archaeological material.
According to the EES distribution lists Canterbury were allocated a toy chair from Grenfell's 1901-02 excavations in the Fayum. The Museum however also holds a significant amount of material from Diospolis Parva that is not listed in the distribution lists according to Craig Bowen, Museums and Galleries Development Manager (Collections) in 2012:
"All the items were from the Diospolis Parva dig of 1899 and comprised 7 stone vases, 2 bronze axes & c and unspecified items of pottery. We have a letter from the EES date 18.11.1899 stating that they are going to give us some items, but unfortunately the list they mention cannot now be found. There are 128 items of pottery noted in our early accession registers as having come from the EES, not including the 7 stone jars.
The pottery has not been looked at by anyone for many years and I am not sure that it is still all there, as there certainly do not seem to be 128 pots and unfortunately they do not appear to have been numbered. We have identified some and these are now on display along with the 7 stone jars which are from specific tombs in the Q and Y cemeteries and can be identified as they still have the pencil marks from the dig."