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The Free & Cultural Heart Of Birmingham
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Birmingham)
Member Name: cazkins
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Birmingham)
Advantages: Free entry, interesting displays with a variety of themes, self-guided, cafe & facilities
Disadvantages: Nothing to complain about for free entry
I visited Birmingham recently to go to the Imax and watch Avatar 3D (which was fab, and I'll review that soon too!). As it took us just over an hour to drive into Birmingham, we decided to go on the morning and spend some time looking around before getting something to eat and heading over to the film. After a quick Google search, I found the Museum & Art gallery was free and is one of those 'things to do' whilst in Brum, so we decided to do that. It was a bit different to the norm, as I only ever really go shopping in Brimingham, so I'm glad I went.
The museum & art gallery is part of 6 other mseums, including Aston Hall, Soho House, Weoley Castle, Sarehole Mill, Blakesley Hall & the Jewellery quarter (so there's plenty you can visit if you're in the West country area).
It can be found in Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, B3 3DH. This place has now been open for 120 years and is easily located by the clock tower on Chamberlain square. It's one of those 'to do' places whilst you're in Birmingham, and it's a very popular place so there's not much problem finding it.
There's no cost to visit and it's free entrance, though there will sometimes be additional charges for some events/exhibitions (but I didn't notice anything that required payment)
The opening Times are as follows:
Monday - Thursday 10am - 5pm
Friday 10.30am - 5pm
Sat 10.00am - 5pm
Sunday 12.30pm - 5pm
It's considered the 'cultural heart of Birmingham', so it's good to know there's more to Birmingham than you may think if you go by the assumptions and pre-conveived notions of the city.
I've seen this museum in the news lately, actually, I noticed it was featured on the TV program 'The Hustle'. Scenes were actually filmed in Birmingham, notably of this museum, but were passed off as being filmed in London. Cheeky, eh?
There's a wide range to see if you visit here so I would suggest leaving a bit of time to have a good mooch around and really appreciate all it has to offer. I think we probably spent 45 minutes walking around, but we also skipped out a section or two of fine art paintings (we were a little pushed for time & none of us were really too interested in that when we could go see some Egyptian mummies!).
When you go in there's a small foyer where you will find a desk to ask a staff member any questions you may have or pick up a few leaflets. You can then go straight into the museum, no questions asked, and look around at your own pace.
The museum is divided into sections, so you know what sort of art you're looking at or which period of history you're walking through. There are pre-Raphaelite paintings, European/World history, 1950s scene set-ups, pottery, aerchaeological findings, mock-ups of historical scenes etc.
The best bit, for me anyway, was the Egyption area. I loved the displays of real mummies, where inside at least one casket was a real mummified person. A little creepy, yes, but very cool nonetheless. There's plenty of artefacts to look at, as well as written notes to read if you want to brush up on your history and learn some interesting factoids.
For those bringing along children, most sections have small activities to keep them interested and having fun. For example, in the Egyption section there are masks for children to try on along with a mirror, and some puzzles for them to solve. Again, it's quite hands on and interactive.
You can also attend a 'spotlight session' as per the website, where you bring an object of your own to the museum and have an expert tell you about it. I find this quite an intriguing idea, though I don't have anything I could take (though I do have some vitamins I found whilst clearing out the cupboards dating back many, many years. I wonder if I could take those?). This is on the 1st Wednesday f each month 1-3pm.
I enjoyed looking around the museum, though we did find ourselves getting a little lost every now and again. Whilst the sections were marked, there was a lack of direction as to which bit you should start with. Obviously, you can suit yourself as to where you look, but there is an order to going around if you want to cover everything, and we noticed we didn't always know which way to go.
We went on a Saturday and there were a fair few people in there, despite a bit of snow, very cold winds and some rain. I would imagine this building can get quite busy, but I found the general feel to the place quite leasurly; there's no push to look at certain things or to hurry around in a certain amount of time.
To remember your day you can take pictures, there are leaflets available from the foyer, and there's also a giftshop (obviously somewhat overpriced as most gift shops seem to be). If you want to break up your visit a bit there's also a café, which I believe serves a selection of snacks and drinks (though we didn't go there).
Overall, it was an enjoyable experience and I can't complain about anything as it was free. There was plenty to look at, with different eras and parts of history to explore, and it had a relaxed and interactive feel to it - not the typical 'hands off' & walk silently whilst you have someone tell you where to go kind of gallery.
Summary: Definitely worth checking out if you're in the area, especially the Egyptian room!
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