Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
General information
Type Museum, Art Gallery
Architectural style
Location Chamberlain Square
Town or city Birmingham
Country England
Current tenants Birmingham Museums Trust
Construction started
  • 1881
  • 1908 (Extension)
  • 1885
  • 1917 (Extension)
Owner Birmingham City Council
Height 50 metres (160 ft) (Clock Tower)
Design and construction
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Established 28 November 1885
Collection size 500,000 objects

936,839 (2015)[1]

Listed Building – Grade II*
Designated 25 April 1952
Reference no. 1210333

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BM&AG) (grid reference SP066869) is a museum and art gallery in Birmingham, England. It has a collection of international importance covering fine art, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, natural history, archaeology, ethnography, local history and industrial history.[2]

The museum/gallery is run by Birmingham Museums Trust, the largest independent museums trust in the United Kingdom, which also runs eight other museums around the city.[3] Entrance to the Museum and Art Gallery is free, but some major exhibitions in the Gas Hall incur an entrance fee. In 2015, 936,839 visitors came to the museum making it the 16th most visited museum nationally and 5th outside of London.


In 1829, the Birmingham Society of Artists created a private exhibition building in New Street, Birmingham while the historical precedent for public education around that time produced the Factory Act 1833, the first instance of Government funding for education.

The Museums Act 1845 "[empowered] boroughs with a population of 10,000 or more to raise a 1/2d for the establishment of museums."[4] In 1864, the first public exhibition room, was opened when the Society and other donors presented 64 pictures as well as the Sultanganj Buddha to Birmingham Council and these were housed in the Free Library building but, due to lack of space, the pictures had to move to Aston Hall.[5] Joseph Nettlefold bequeathed twenty-five pictures by David Cox to Birmingham Art Gallery on the condition it opened on Sundays.[6]

Industrial Gallery, the original part of the Art Gallery

In June 1880, local artist Allen Edward Everitt accepted the post of honorary curator of the Free Art Gallery, a municipal institution which was the forerunner of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.[7]

Jesse Collings, Mayor of Birmingham 1878–79, was responsible for free libraries in Birmingham and was the original proponent of the Birmingham Art Gallery. A£10,000 (2010: £840,000) gift by Sir Richard and George Tangye started a new drive for an art gallery and, in 1885, following other donations and £40,000 from the council, the Prince of Wales officially opened the new gallery on 28 November 1885.[5][8] The Museum and Art Gallery occupied an extended part of the Council House above the new offices of the municipal Gas Department (which in effect subsidised the venture thus circumventing the Public Libraries Act 1850 which limited the use of public funds on the arts). The building was designed by Yeoville Thomason.[9]

Until 1946, when property taxes were voted towards acquisitions, the museum relied on the generosity of private individuals.[5] John Feeney provided £50,000 to provide a further gallery.

Seven galleries had to be rebuilt after being bombed in 1940.[5] Immediately after World War II "Mighty Mary" Mary Woodall (19011988) was appointed keeper of art under director, Trenchard Cox. Woodall and Cox, through their links to the London art world, were able to attract exhibitions, much publicity and donations to the gallery. In 1956, Woodall replaced Cox when the latter became Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum.[10]

In 1951, the Museum of Science and Industry, Birmingham was incorporated into BM&AG. In 2001, the Science Museum closed with some exhibits being transferred to Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, which was operated by the independent Thinktank Trust that has since become part of Birmingham Museums Trust.

The main entrance is located in Chamberlain Square below the clock tower known locally as "Big Brum". The entrance hall memorial reads 'By the gains of Industry we promote Art'.[5] The Extension Block has entrances via the Gas Hall (Edmund Street) and Great Charles Street. Waterhall (the original gas department) has its own entrance on Edmund Street.

In October 2010, the Waterhall closed as a BM&AG gallery as a result of a £1.5m cut to Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery's budget in 2010–11. The last BM&AG exhibition that took place in the Waterhall at that time was the Steve McCurry Retrospective that ran from 26 to 17 June October 2010. The Waterhall and the Gas Hall have reopened for exhibitions throughout the year.

BM&AG, formerly managed by Birmingham City Council, is now, with Thinktank, part of Birmingham Museums Trust.

Art Gallery collection highlights


The Art Gallery is most noted for its extensive collections of paintings ranging from the 14th to the 21st century. They include works by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the largest collection of works by Edward Burne-Jones in the world. Notable painters in oil include the following:

English School

Paintings from the Dutch School include a painting each from Jan van Goyen and Willem van de Velde the Younger.

Flemish School
French School
German School
Italian School
Spanish School
The Round Room including Jacob Epstein's The Archangel Lucifer (1944–45).


The collection of antiquities includes coins from ancient times through to the Middle Ages, artefacts from Ancient India and Central Asia, Ancient Cyprus and Ancient Egypt. There is material from Classical Greece, the Roman Empire and Latin America. There is also mediaeval material, much of which is now on display in The Birmingham History Galleries, a permanent exhibition on the third floor of the museum.

In November 2014 a dedicated gallery was opened to display the Staffordshire Hoard. Discovered in the nearby village of Hammerwich in 2009 it is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.

In respect of local and industrial history, the tower of the Birmingham HP Sauce factory was a famous landmark alongside the Aston Expressway which was demolished in the summer of 2007.[25] The giant logo from the top of the tower is now in the collection of the Museum.


Star of Bethlehem by Edward Burne-Jones. 
Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 
The Blind Girl by John Everett Millais. 
Birmingham from the Dome of St Philip's Church by Samuel Lines. 


The video of Dave, the Minion balloon on a tour of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery was viewed with interest by the internet community and commented on by the media. The balloon was lost by a visitor in the Round Room and remained there for around 8 months. When the balloon deflated its descent was captured by CCTV and uploaded to social media. The balloon is now displayed in the entrance to the shop.[26]

See also


  1. . ALVA. 2014 Retrieved 2015-03-19. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. Fisher, Mark (2005). "Barber Institute of Fine Arts". Britain's Best Museums and Galleries: From the Greatest Collections to the Smallest Curiosities. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 205–207. ISBN 0-14-101960-3.
  3. "West Mids accountants appointed by largest independent museums trust". Commercial News Media. 2013-07-22. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
  4. Kelly & Kelly (1977), p. 77.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 'Economic and Social History: Social History since 1815', A History of the County of Warwick: VII The City of Birmingham (1964), pp. 223-245. Feeney (accessed: 30 January 2008).
  6. Barbara M. D. Smith, 'Nettlefold, Joseph Henry (1827–1881)', rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  7. W. J. Harrison, 'Everitt, Allen Edward (1824–1882)', rev. Stephen Wildman, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  8. "Death of Sir Richard Tangye". New York Times. 1906-10-15. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
  9. Historic England. "Details from image database (217695)". Images of England.
  10. Kenneth Garlick, 'Woodall, Mary (1901–1988)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004.
  11. "Oil Painting - Study of Clouds - Evening, August 31st, 1822. - Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Information Centre". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  12. "Harwich Lighthouse by John Constable at Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery Prints". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  13. "Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  14. "Birmingham Museums and art Gallery : Search Results : Gainsborough". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  15. "Oil Painting - Offshore - Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Information Centre". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  16. Archived 22 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. "Oil Painting - A Roman Beggar Woman - Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Information Centre". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  18. "Oil Painting - Le Pont Boieldieu à Rouen, Soleil Couchant [The Pont Boieldieu at Sunset] - Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Information Centre". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  19. "Oil Painting - St Tropez, France - Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Information Centre". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  20. "Oil Painting - Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints and Donor - Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Information Centre". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  21. "Oil Painting - The Descent of the Holy Ghost - Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Information Centre". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  22. "Oil Painting - Warwick Castle, East Front from the Courtyard - Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Information Centre". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  23. "Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  24. "Oil Painting - Rest on the Flight into Egypt - Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Information Centre". Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  25. "UK | England | West Midlands | Demolition of HP factory begins". BBC News. 2007-07-02. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
  26. "CCTV Captures Minion Balloon's Museum Tour". Sky News. Sky News. 16 June 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2015.


Further reading

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Coordinates: 52°28′49.08″N 1°54′13.63″W / 52.4803000°N 1.9037861°W / 52.4803000; -1.9037861

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