Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

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Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BM&AG) (grid reference SP066869) is an art gallery in Birmingham, England.

Entrance to the Museum and Art Gallery is free, but some major exhibitions in the Gas Hall incur an entrance fee. It has a collection of international importance covering fine art, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, archaeology, ethnography, local history and industrial history.


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 “ boroughs with a population of 10,000 or more to raise a 1/2d for the establishment of museums.” 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.Joseph Nettlefold donated twenty-five pictures by David Cox to Birmingham Art Gallery on the condition it opened on Sundays.

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.

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: £800,000) 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. 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.

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

Seven galleries had to be rebuilt after being bombed in 1940. Immediately after World War II "Mighty Mary" Woodall 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.

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 is operated by the independent Thinktank 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'. The Extension Block has entrances via the Gas Hall (Edmund Street) and Great Charles Street. Waterhall (the old 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 was the Steve McCurry Retrospective that ran from June 26th to 17th October 2010. The Waterhall is now available for venue hire. It was booked by the Art of Ideas for The Witching Hour exhibition November 11th to November 14th 2010. This is the last time the Waterhall was used as an exhibition space.

BM&AG is managed by Birmingham City Council.


The Art Gallery is most noted for the extensive collection of paintings ranging from the 14th to the 21st century. It includes work by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the largest collection of works by Edward Burne-Jones in the world. The collection includes works by Canaletto, Lowry, Gainsborough.

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

English School

Flemish School

French School

German School

Italian School

Spanish School


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.

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. The giant logo from the top of the tower is now in the collection of the Museum.

Community museums

BM&AG also has many branch museums (some closed in the Winter) in historic buildings:

  • Aston Hall, in Aston, built 1618 - 1635
  • Blakesley Hall, in Yardley, a Tudor house
  • Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Hockley (open all year)
  • Sarehole Mill, in Hall Green, a water mill
  • Soho House, in Handsworth, home of Matthew Boulton with exhibitions on the Lunar Society
  • Weoley Castle (ruins), in Weoley Castle

The Museum of Science and Industry, on Newhall Street from 1951–1997, has now closed. Many exhibits were moved to Thinktank, Birmingham science museum, which is operated by the independent Thinktank Trust.

The Museums Collections Centre in Nechells has brought together 80 per cent of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s stored collections under one roof. The 1.5-hectare (3.7-acre) site, close to Duddeston Station, holds hundreds of thousands of objects. At the moment the Museums Collection Centre is only open to the public on open days or by appointment.

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