Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery

History of Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery

Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery is the largest local authority museum service in England. It has collections of national and international importance.

The museum was built in 1884 to display objects from around the world for the inspiration of local artisans. It has an extensive collection of fine and applied art, social history, archaeology and ethnography. There are over 750,000 objects in the collection dating from 2000 years ago to the present.

The Museum & Art Gallery was opened by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in 1885. At the time the Museum consisted of only the entrance vestibule, the Round Room, and what are today the Industrial Galleries and Edwardian Tea Room. Visitors to the museum at that time would have seen densely packed and mixed displays of paintings, sculpture, glass, ceramics, metalwork, weapons, coins and medals.

Before the municipal gallery came into being, Birmingham had many small, private collections, such as Bisset's "Museum and Picture Gallery" which traded in New Street as early as 1808. By the middle of the 19th century many of the prominent citizens of Birmingham wanted a city museum that would show the best industrial design from around the world.

In 1860, a public meeting held at the Town Hall adopted the Government's Public Libraries and Museums Act, and empowered a committee to take charge of its implementation. The museum was constructed using local rates and the support of philanthropic patrons as funding.

The Round Room at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

The exterior of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery