phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
A Museum Lover’s Guide to Bristol
Image Credit: Wendy North, Bristol Museum entrance hall

A Museum Lover’s Guide to Bristol

16 July 2017 | Hudi Charin

Once the second UK city only to London, Bristol has a complex cultural heritage stretching from the slave trade, to Brunel’s inventions, to the vibrant street art of recent decades. If you are a lover of museums, this is the perfect city to visit to appreciate centuries of history. From science centres to stately homes, there is so much to explore that even the most hardened museum buff will be enthralled by the city’s cultural offerings.

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
 
This is perhaps the most obvious choice, as the name itself would imply. Although it may be a cliché to start with the city’s main museum, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery actually has a very impressive collection of art and artefacts, and is well worth a visit. Entering the beautiful neoclassical building designed by Sir Charles Robert Cockerell, you will be instantly struck by the atmosphere of the museum. With a Bristol biplane replica hanging overhead, Assyrian statues to one side and a Banksy sculpture to the other, there is clearly a fascinating and eclectic array of exhibits in store. The ground floor covers archaeological objects from Egypt and Assyria, while the first floor holds geological wonders, sparkling minerals and dinosaur skeletons. Perhaps the most surprising element is the art collection on the second floor. Impressively large in scope, these galleries feature pieces from masters such as Gainsborough and Constable. If you’re looking to cover a lot of historical and geographical ground, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery should really be your first stop.


Image Credit: Tony Hisgett, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
 
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is located at Queens Rd, Bristol BS8 1RL.
 
M Shed
 
If you’ve taken a look at the historical exhibits in the Bristol Museum and are still raring for more museum time, it’s just a short walk down Park Street to get to M Shed, the cultural centre of Bristol. Built on the site of the former Industrial Museum in 2011, M Shed is a new and exciting take on displaying heritage. Occupying a modern building, M Shed covers three main floors: Bristol Places, Bristol People and Bristol Life, each taking a different angle through which to tell the story of the city, through artefacts, paintings, videos and resident testimonies. Whereas many heritage sites tend to avoid provocative issues, M Shed confronts the city’s complex dynamics head on, with exhibitions on Bristol’s role in the slave trade, the Somali community living in Bristol and spotlighting some of the more run-down areas of Bristol which are not usually represented in mainstream coverage of the city. There are also fascinating tours available around the storeroom, which holds industrial, maritime and personal objects from the city’s past. Volunteers have also been working on restoring the historical cranes on Bristol’s docks. For those who wish to delve deeper into the city’s cultural heritage and contemporary society, this is the modern museum for you.


Image Credit: Heather Cowper, M Shed
 
M Shed is located at Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN.
 
@Bristol
 
No, there isn’t a typo on the road signs, this is the name (pronounced ‘At-Bristol’) of the go-to science centre in Bristol. Rather than being historical, like many of the other institutions on this list, @Bristol focuses on interactive science and technology. With regular new additions to the exhibits, which include the UK’s only 3D Planetarium and an indoor greenhouse, there is a clear ambition to inspire curiosity and creativity, particularly among younger visitors. There are talks, live demonstrations and events allowing for more in-depth exploration of the exhibits and the science behind them. Almost everything can be handled or moved, meaning it is the ideal destination to delight a new generation of museum lovers. There are also after-hours, hands-on talks for adults, so there really is something for everyone. Located right by the harbour side, it is also surrounded by some great restaurants to really make a day out of it.
 
@Bristol is located at Anchor Rd, Harbourside, Bristol BS1 5DB.
 
Red Lodge Museum
 
Red Lodge Museum is quite an unusual find, given that it is neither a stately home nor a traditional museum. It is more a mix of both: a ‘historic house museum’. The original building was Tudor, and the museum traces the changes in the inhabitants of the building from the 1580s through to the early nineteenth century. Three of the rooms are displayed exactly as they would have appeared in the sixteenth century complete with the oak furniture of John Young, a merchant who had the original lodge built to show other merchants his coveted portraits and exotic finds. These rooms include the last complete Elizabethan room in Bristol. The Youngs also had eight ornamental gardens, and a beautiful Elizabethan Knot Garden still remains today. In the 1730s, the lodge became a family home and fashionable extensions were added, doubling the building in size. In 1854, the lodge went on to become a Victorian school, capturing an interesting slice of history where reformer Mary Carpenter hoped to nurture the nation’s poor girls rather than leave them to the workhouses and prisons. This rather strange building acts as a walk through history, offering rare snapshots of various moments in Bristol’s heritage.


Image Credit: Sam Saunders, Red Lodge Museum
 
Red Lodge Museum is located at Park Row, Bristol BS1 5LJ.
 
Brunel’s SS Great Britain
 
The SS Great Britain represents such a key moment in Bristol’s history that any museum lover worth their stripes would surely hate to miss out on a visit to this award-winning attraction. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the steamship was the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854, and the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic. Yet this is not just a history lesson; the ship itself and the area surrounding it have been renovated to allow an immersive experience. The Dockyard Museum recreates how the Bristol docks would have been, complete with costumed models and fake horse-drawn carriages. Although the ship no longer sits in the water, recorded sounds of wood creaking in the river contribute to the theatre of the harbour side. This is beautifully done, and immediately sets the scene for the ship that ‘changed the world.’ You are then able to board the ship and get up close to the historical engine and propeller. As such a key symbol on Bristol’s landscape, the ship is often involved in events and festivals throughout the year, and is really a must-see to round off your museum experience in Bristol.


Image Credit: SS Great Britain, weather deck
 
SS Great Britain is located at Great Western Dockyard, Gas Ferry Rd, Bristol BS1 6TY.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

Win a VIP Weekend for Two!

Eastbourne International Airshow - Win a VIP Weekend for Two!

Win a VIP Weekend for Two at the Airbourne: Eastbourne International Airshow!

Bristol’s Hidden Gems: Cheap and Cheerful Grub

Bristol’s Hidden Gems: Cheap and Cheerful Grub

Eating out in Bristol is incredibly tempting, with its eclectic mix of stalls, restaurants and cafés serving up dishes from delectable cuisines from all around the…

Top 5: Beer Gardens in Brighton & Hove

Top 5: Beer Gardens in Brighton & Hove

British pub gardens and rooftop terraces may stand rain-soaked and forlorn in the winter months, but come summer they’re transformed into charming oases – perfect for…

Win a Pair of Weekend Tickets to LeeFest 2017!

LeeFest - Win a Pair of Weekend Tickets to LeeFest 2017!

Festival season is in full swing, and we have a pair of tickets to one of the UK's best independent festivals up for grabs!

A Weekend Away in ... the Cotswolds

A Weekend Away in ... the Cotswolds

The gently rolling hills and picturesque limestone villages of the Cotswolds are set against quintessentially English countryside, spanning over six counties and designated an Area…

Introducing: The Shires

Introducing: The Shires

It’s a marker for the revolution in country music. A product that originated from Nashville, Tennessee, was exported to the UK; then revised, renewed and refreshed…

A Museum Lover’s Guide to Bristol

A Museum Lover’s Guide to Bristol

Once the second UK city only to London, Bristol has a complex cultural heritage stretching from the slave trade, to Brunel’s inventions, to the vibrant street…

Top 5: Bristol Food Festivals

Top 5: Bristol Food Festivals

If you’re a foodie who wants to spend your summer celebrating all things scrumptious, Bristol is your go-to capital of cuisine. From burger bonanzas to Thai…

A Book Lover’s Guide to Bristol

A Book Lover’s Guide to Bristol

Bristol’s literary scene has many claims to fame ranging from the early 1700s to the present day. Not only is it the city to have inspired…

Rose Finn-Kelcey: Life, Belief and Beyond

Rose Finn-Kelcey: Life, Belief and Beyond

The first posthumous exhibition from the highly acclaimed performance artist

Most popular

Win a Kids-Only Adventure Holiday!

Kingswood Camps - Win a Kids-Only Adventure Holiday!

Make summer 2017 one to remember with a kids-only adventure holiday – worth £299 – at Kingswood Camps this August.
A Theatre-lover’s Guide to Brighton

A Theatre-lover’s Guide to Brighton

If all of Brighton is a stage, and we are but players, then read Culture Calling's guide to winning the game.
VIDEO: Bristol Pride 2017 in 30 Seconds

VIDEO: Bristol Pride 2017 in 30 Seconds

Bristol Pride returned for 2017 on Saturday 8 July. Culture Calling grabbed a camera and headed to the heart of the action to capture just a glimpse of what was on offer.
The Museum of Transology

The Museum of Transology

The Museum of Transology, now on display in Brighton Museum’s Spotlight Gallery, is an installation that has been many years in the making.
An Interview with Kate Nash

An Interview with Kate Nash

We sat down with indie popstar Nash to talk markers of success, new music and her role in Netflix original series, GLOW.
Top 5: Family Attractions in Chichester

Top 5: Family Attractions in Chichester

Chichester is the perfect destination for a day out with the kids this summer, so here you have our top 5 family attractions.
Win a Family Ticket and Lunch!

Museum of Army Flying - Win a Family Ticket and Lunch!

Win a family ticket for two adults and three children to visit the Museum of Army Flying plus lunch in the Apache Café!
‘John Minton: A Centenary’ at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester

‘John Minton: A Centenary’ at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester

One of the leading lights of British Neo-Romanticism in the 1940s, John Minton's retrospective reveals the artist's singular vision of the world.
Birmingham on a Budget

Birmingham on a Budget

Get the most out of your day trip to Birmingham for less than £20!
An Interview with Oliver Johnstone

An Interview with Oliver Johnstone

Culture Calling speak to British actor Oliver Johnstone about his career so far.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!