British Museums For Cold Winter Days
Get away from the cold and gloom this winter by visiting a cosy museum. There are thousands across the UK, full of historic artefacts and treasures, fascinating technologies, and important works of art. Whether you’re interested in world cultures, ancient tradition, science and technology, or rural living, there’s something for all the family among these fabulous collections.
Susie Kearley is a British freelance writer and journalist, working for magazines, newspapers, and book publishers around the world. She does a lot of British travelling in her tiny Freedom caravan.
Banner Image Credit: National Museums Scotland
The British Museum, London
The British Museum in London has over 60 galleries across five floors, immersing visitors in a diverse range of cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs from around the world. The glass-roofed Great Court opened to the public in December 2000, following a major redesign, which cost £100 million. Upon its completion, The Guardian newspaper described it as, “one of the world’s most extraordinary covered squares,” and it’s truly breath-taking.
Galleries lead off the Great Hall to the Living and Dying exhibition, where you can explore African Shamanism, Eastern herbalism, and Western approaches to medicine. Walk through the Americas Gallery and the Mexican Gallery, immersing yourself in folklore and tradition, passing displays of tribal masks, Aztec gods and supernatural beings. The Enlightenment Gallery takes you into the 17th century and the age of ‘modern’ scientific discovery, from 1680 to 1820.
Image Credit: Nigel Young
The Waddesdon Bequest houses a glittering display of Renaissance treasures collected by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild. His family were great landowners, bankers, businessmen and collectors. Today they are best known for their wine and stately homes. Some of the treasures on display include golden plates, vases, ornamental cups, clocks, and armoury.
Upstairs, there’s an exhibition about the Anglo Saxon Burial ground, Sutton Hoo. The museum looks at different cultures through the ages, with explorations of ancient Greece and Rome, the famous Egyptian and European Galleries, statues from ancient Assyria and a top floor Japanese Gallery full of fascinating treasures.
National Space Centre, Leicester
The National Space Centre in Leicester is an award-winning visitor experience, offering six interactive galleries and oodles of family fun. The museum takes you through the story of space travel, decade by decade. Climb the Rocket Tower, see real spacecraft, and learn about the Apollo missions to the moon. Kids will love the 3D simulator experience. The museum explores questions like what do astronauts eat, drink and wear? What’s a space shuttle like inside? And what happened to the dogs sent into space in the 1960s?
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Don’t miss the planetarium – a full dome cinema experience. Sit back and watch the night skies erupt with life above you in a search to discover if we’re alone in the universe. This is the largest planetarium in the UK. A new exhibition looks at Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station.
St Fagan’s National History Museum, Cardiff
There’s something for everyone at St Fagan’s, with acres of gardens and hidden treasures. Explore the Iron Age village, the tannery, the workman’s institute and the post-war prefab. Then get right up to date with a modern ‘eco’ house, full of the latest technology to demonstrate how you can generate your own fuel and minimize your carbon footprint.
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The museum has an old textile mill complete with demonstrations of textile making, and some glorious water gardens. The manor house dates back to 1580 and boasts grand interiors that reflect the lifestyles of the Earl of Plymouth and his family, who gave the castle and its grounds to the Welsh people in 1946.
Whether Victorian villages are your thing, or you prefer to explore the lives of ordinary Welsh people at different times in history, St Fagan’s offers a great day out for everyone. Free entry, but £5 parking applies.
The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
The National Museum of Scotland has recently opened ten new galleries, intended to inspire the scientists, engineers, artists and designers of the future. The four new art and design galleries are called Fashion and Style, Making and Creating, Design for Living, and Art of Living. They explore decorative art, techniques and inspirations, the works of great artists, and creative ideas that have shaped contemporary design.
Image Credit: National Museums Scotland
The six new Science and Technology galleries delve into the secrets of biomedical science including genetics and Dolly the sheep. The new galleries are called Explore, Making It, Technology by Design, Enquire, Energise, and Communicate. They explore how new technologies have changed our lives and look at the impact of new inventions, with interactive displays, films and touchscreens, and a giant hamster wheel where you’re invited to generate power… before the lights go out!
Rutland County Museum
The history of Rutland’s rural living is brought to life in Rutland County Museum, with agricultural and domestic life explored through a series of exhibitions. Rutland is the smallest county in the British Isles and Rutland Water attracts thousands of visitors every year. It’s a wildlife haven, popular for water sports, but it was developed amid passionate protests in the 1970s, and despite the outcry, a dam was constructed and the village of Nether Hambleton disappeared beneath the waters.
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Looking at Rutland life through the ages, the museum explores the Stone Age, Iron Age, Romano-British settlements, and Anglo Saxon periods. Victorian exhibits include toys, domestic appliances and medicine. There are displays about the two world wars, and a collection of wagons and agricultural machinery.
The last gallery houses items from the Industrial Revolution, including heavy printing presses and machines. The old gallows from Oakham are the only surviving New Drop Gallows in England, and they’re displayed beside a small exhibition about law and order in the county.