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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery houses the largest collection of pre-Raphaelite artwork in the world. It also is home to large collections of silver, sculpture, jewellery, ceramics and social history galleries and so it was no wonder that we visited it when we were in Birmingham. The main entrance to the museum is located in Chamberlain Square just below the clock tower which is locally known as “Big Brum”. Entrance is free though there may be a charge for some exhibitions and events. If you are interested in history and art then you can spend the whole day looking at everything in detail.





The period from 1750-1800 was known for its fine earthenware and stoneware and the museum has an impressive collection of these.



Porcelain manufacturing was well established by 1760 in UK but these were mostly expensive and luxury objects. If you look at the photo below you will understand what I mean. This beautiful porcelain lamp was painted in enamels and was a luxury possession. Many such expensive and beautiful pieces of porcelain art are exhibited in the museum.



When we visited the museum we also saw a display called 'Aspects of Japan' which highlighted items from the museums Japanese collection. The display included Samurai armour, lacquer ware, woodblock prints and more. What a fine collection it was. I was particularly drawn to it because of the attention to detail in each exhibit which shows the mastery of the craftsmen over any kind of material.





One another stunning piece in the museum that caught my attention was the Elkington Clock. This beautiful silver clock was commissioned as present for the Chief Engineer of the Buenos Aires Railway from Elkington. Do you notice a smaller model train between the 2 human figures. That small model represents a train that was developed for the Indian Railways in 1850s and then exported to Argentina by an engineer from Birmingham. Interesting, isn't it?


Every piece of exhibit in the museum has an interesting story to tell. Take a look at the costume below. This is the Carnival Queen costume from the Birmingham Carnival of 2011. It was made by Arlton Browne (Professor Black) using a large collection of sequins, gems and feathers and took 3 weeks to construct. Did you know that Professor Brown has been making costumes for the Birmingham Carnival since 1984.


I was also attracted to the Jewellery section in the museum. There was a huge display with a wonderful diverse collection of jewellery from head to toe. There were intricate badges which were used as symbols of social rank and there were personal adornments that reflected social, political or religious beliefs. Every jewel on display offered a fascinating insight into the people and society that made it.



1950's was the period of fine metalwork. Designs influenced by historical English forms and sweeping curves of Scandinavian styles were very common in that period. My favourites from this section of the museum are pictured below.



Birmingham has a booming button industry and the museum houses a collection of some lovely buttons. Buttons covered with a thin layer of gold leaf, metal buttons and fancy ones with ivory, pearl and glass and even glass buttons were on display.




We had a wonderful half day at the Museum and Art Gallery taking in the beautiful pieces of art. Overall, the wide range and variety of exhibits in the museum and art gallery means you can visit again and again and still enjoy it every time. The Museum is located centrally and the staff are helpful and knowledgeable. Definitely a must visit if you are travelling to Birmingham.





Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Chamberlain Square,
Birmingham, B3 3DH
Phone: +44 (0)121 348 8007

Opening Times:
Monday - Thursday 10am - 5pm
Friday 10.30am - 5pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am - 5pm
Open on Bank Holidays except 26th December

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