Museums and galleries in Nottingham

Nottingham is lively city, full of music and entertainment, as well as history and culture.  For those looking for a day of art or history appreciation, and the quiet restoration that it can bring, the city has a variety of museums and art galleries.

The free Angel Row Gallery at the Central Library showcases contemporary works by living artists.  Most shows are experimental and thought-provoking in nature, and usually include some interactive exhibits for children and families alongside the more contemplative displays.   There are also a number of workshops, lectures, and courses available through the gallery.

The first municipal art gallery in the United Kingdom was the Midland Counties Museum of Art, founded in 1872.  In 1878 moved into Nottingham Castle, finally refurbished by noted local architect Thomas Chambers Hine after it was burned and gutted by rioters angry at the Duke of Newcastle in 1831.  The gallery, with its name changed to "Nottingham Art Museum" and then to "Museum and Art Gallery, Nottingham Castle" grew quickly through public donations, and now hoses a world class collection of archaeological items and antiquities, an ethnographical collection, ceramics, paintings, prints, and drawings, silver, armour, and Venetian glass.  It has many children's exhibitions, and frequent tours through the numerous manmade caves, tunnels, dungeons and wine cellars delved deep under the castle's sandstone foundations.  The Castle Museum is now associated with the Nottingham School of Art.

There are also numerous private art galleries and art dealers throughout Nottingham, especially in the Lace Market district.  The Lakeside Arts Centre provides visual art in addition to music, dance and theatre.

The Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard is a fascinating collection of information about everyday life in the city over the last three hundred years.  The Brewhouse Yard was once a tiny village of twenty houses, including the renowned "Trip to Jerusalem" pub which dates back to the 11th century, and several underground dwellings carved into the sandstone bluff, which were used as air raid shelters during World War II.   Since 1977, five of the 17th century cottages from the village have been refurbished to hold the historical collection of the Museum.  Each cottage holds a reconstruction of Edwardian and Victorian households or shop settings from days gone by, as well as displays of antique photographs, paintings, machinery and more.

Mathematical physicist George Green built a windmill in the 19th century, and it is still a working mill which produces award-winning organic flour.   Visitors to Green's Windmill and Science Centre, founded 1985, can observe the workings of the mill and learn about the history and current production of flour.  There is also a hands-on Science Centre which explores some of the concepts Green studied during his lifetime.  There are interactive displays on electricity, light and magnetism which are geared towards children.

The Natural History Museum was founded in 1867 and showcases the collections of local and international naturalists.  It was moved into its own buildings at University College (now the University of Nottingham) in 1881, was closed during the war, then relocated to the largely unsuitable Wollaton Hall in 1926.  It holds over three quarters of a million specimens of fossils, minerals, insects, plants, and vertebrate and invertebrate animals.  The Nottingham Biological and Geological Records Centre is also housed at the museum.

Newstead Abbey was the home of the Byron family.  The estate and its Byron Museum were donated to the city of Nottingham by Sir Julien Cahn in 1931.  It has information and memorabilia about the famous poet Lord Byron, the related families Byron, Wildman and Webb, and archival and archaeological information about Newstead Priory and the Newstead Estate.

A Canal Museum was opened in 1981, but closed and transferred its collections to the National Boat Museum in 1998.

The 500-acre Wollaton Park and the impressive Tudor mansion Wollaton Hall (built by Robert Smythson in the 1500s, and once owned by the Willoughby family) were purchased by the city in 1925.  The estate was briefly taken over by the military during World War II, and the museum collections housed there were temporarily forced to move.  A classic Doric Temple stands in the deer park, and the Grade 1 Listed Camellia house is also part of the complex.  The estate has been undergoing thorough restoration throughout 2006, with some portions closed to the public.

Wollaton Park was later used to house the Industrial Museum which preserved the important history of the manufacturing and processing of textiles, lace, wool, bicycles, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, steam engines, agricultural machinery and other manufacturing in the area.  It also has a fine transport collection, with Baskerville coaches and other historical items.

The similar Museum of Costume and Textiles was opened in Castlegate in 1976, but closed to the public in 2003, although the collections are still viewable by appointment.

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