Cambridge has an incredible selection of Museums, covering all manner of topics including the likes of Archaeology, Anthropology and Scientific Discovery. These institutions allow you to delve into history, learning about the city’s achievements and its famous residents. There is also a growing number of art galleries and fine art museums within the Cambridge area, these collections range from a classical to a more contemporary appearance. What’s great is all of these establishments allow the viewers to choose from a range of established & internationally renowned collections to smaller, modern, rolling exhibits.
The University of Cambridge has eight museums, including the Botanic Garden, which represent the UK’s highest concentration of internationally important collections outside London. With more than five million pieces, the collections have supported nearly 300 years of investigation into the world around us. So with both the university and independent establishments the city has many museums and art galleries to choose from. Here we have briefly introduced some of the most popular in Cambridge so you can find out more about the culture and heritage of our incredible city.
Unfortunately museums and galleries are currently subject to closures due to COVID-19. Therefore, please check venue websites before visiting, but in the meantime there are plenty of ways to connect with museums online.
The oldest museum of Cambridge University is Sedgwick Museum of Earth and Science. When visiting Sedgwick you will come across the well known ‘Beagle’ Collection which contains rocks and fossils found by Charles Darwin during his voyage around the world on HMS Beagle between 1831-1836.
Another partner to Cambridge University is, The Fitzwilliam Museum, which is perhaps Cambridge’s largest and most recognised establishment. It houses a world-renowned collection of over half a million beautiful pieces of art, masterpiece paintings and historical artefacts. This museum definitely takes you through the ages with some artefacts dating back to 2500 BC. From Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Cyprus and the far east, here’s where history can be told.
If you would like to explore the history and heritage of this city, then the Museum of Cambridge, is a must. This establishment has been around for over 70 years, however its venue has been around for a lot longer. It is a Grade II listed 17th century former coaching inn. Used by the townspeople of Cambridge, it was a domestic dwelling which has altered over time creating an eccentric layout with winding staircases, uneven floors and a charming character which makes visiting even more memorable. The museum collections represent the city and the traditions of local people for over a 300 year period.
Like many in the heritage sector, Covid-19 has dealt a significant financial blow to this museum so please visit their donation page if you can support this charity.
One of the most popular museum for tourists is the University Museum of Zoology. It has one of the world’s best collection of zoological specimens with over two million that span the entire animal kingdom from elephants to molluscs. It is here where you will learn about extinction, survival, evolution and exploration. Even though the museum doors are open for all enjoy, their collections are used for academic study by researchers and students worldwide.
Lastly, Whipple Museum of the History of Science is where you will find scientific instruments, apparatus, models, pictures, prints, photographs, books and other material related to the history of science. Instruments that were collected by Robert Stuart Whipple and donated to the University of Cambridge in 1944 forms the founding basis of the Museum’s collections. This together with a number of special collections transferred from other colleges and departments in the University of Cambridge, all play an active role in the teaching of history and philosophy of science.
Cambridge Art Galleries
One of the most popular galleries in Cambridge is Kettle’s Yard. This gallery accommodates major contemporary exhibits in addition to organising events and hosting creative workshops all year round. When visiting this modern gallery, take some time to see ‘The House’ the original foundation of Kettle’s Yard as well as the Rana Begum’s installation of bamboo baskets in St Peter’s Church.
There are also independent art galleries within the city, one of them is Byard Art which is a contemporary gallery on Kings Parade. They showcase an innovative exhibition programme of solo and mixed shows to offer an exclusive selection of two and three-dimensional work.
Finally, there is the Heong Galley; Downing College’s modern & contemporary artwork gallery. This unique gallery was named in gratitude for the generous benefaction of Alwyn Heong. Back in 2017, it was prized with the RIBA East Award and hosts exclusive yet unique exhibitions that you wouldn’t want to miss.
As you can see Cambridge has some of the best museums in the country, ranging from the most recognised to hidden treasures that are waiting to be discovered. There are over 20 museums and galleries in the city (from our memory) and regrettably most were forced to close their doors at some point during the coronavirus pandemic. So please take some time to visit some of our artistic and cultural establishments, to find your favourite, once their doors are allowed to be reopened. In the meantime donation pages have been setup, so do go and check out the websites highlighted above if you are able to support them during this time.
… And remember a visit to Cambridge isn’t complete without a punting tour, so why not plan your next trip to this historical city with a visit to a museum or gallery together with a relaxing journey along the College Backs on a chauffeured punt tour.