Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is an important part of our city. Can you believe it has been in Birmingham 130 years? For me it was always just an interesting place I visited in the summer holidays as a child. As I've got older I've appreciated it more, especially since we've had the Staffordshire Hoard and since I realised what an important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art we have.

I went along on a Saturday morning to see the newest galleries- Baroque Art, Birmingham People and Change in the Inner-City and Wendy Ramshaw's Room of Dreams.

Baroque Art


The museum has a substantial catalogue of 17th century art which hasn't been displayed to the public. They spent a long time putting together the new baroque gallery, including re-painting a dramatic purple. 

The first room is Italian and Spanish art. The themes here were very religious although there were a few landscapes. You may remember from my Florence post that I'm not a big fan of this style, but seen this curated form it was a lot easier to take in.

On to northern Europe. Again, I hate taking pictures of pictures so I was trying hard to find a different angle. I much preferred the northern paintings. Hannah, the marketing officer at BMAG explained to us that as the Baroque style spread across Europe, artists took the dramatic imagery and colours and applied their own themes.

I loved how they have included some hands-on exhibits for children and maybe even for adults who prefer a more tactile experience. We certainly had fun playing with the mixed up faces!

Birmingham People and Change in the Inner-City

Now for something completely different. We moved into Birmingham in the last hundred years. I loved this gallery. I live in an area of Birmingham which has gone through significant changes since WW2 and it isn't the only one. Birmingham is an ever-evolving city and this gallery explored what that was like for its inhabitants.

The Handsworth Self Portrait display was lovely. In the 1970's Handsworth was associated with unrest and race riots. A group of photographers wanted to show the people of Handsworth through their own eyes. They set up tents in various parts of the area and advertised in different languages for people to come along. In the tent, they were given a remote for the camera and posed themselves for their photo. I love the personality and the pride in these images. Definitely worth visiting.

There's lots to look at in this gallery and you're likely to learn something new about the city. Lots of the bloggers I was with didn't know that the ring road was used for formula 3 races in the late 80s and there's a super painting representing that.

For me, I was fascinated by the council's plans for a civic centre in the early 1900s. There's a huge display showing what the area by Broad Street and the ICC would have been like. They built some parts- Baskerville House for example- but sadly WW1 happened.

Wendy Ramshaw's Room of Dreams

I was told this was a jewellery display and I wasn't hugely excited. I like looking at jewellery from the past but I wasn't sure what could be so special.

Well, this isn't just a jewellery room. It's about childhood dreams and fantasies, it's about fairy tales, it's about queens in stories and in nature, with a steampunk vibe.

The white and red was very striking. There were lots of interesting objects to look at and think about. Although the room was influenced by Wendy Ramshaw's childhood, she wanted people to apply their own understanding to it. It gave me a sense of the darker place that fairy tales come from. You pick up on this as a child and it's a bit confusing and this display really had that atmosphere.

The museum is free apart from some temporary exhibitions. It's a beautiful building and an important one too.

Of course...

The Edwardian Tea Room

We were then treated to afternoon tea in the recently renovated tearooms. I love what they have done. There are nods to the name and lots of mis-matched furniture. It's a lovely place to sit down and enjoy lunch or a cake even if you aren't visiting the museum. But as it's free- you may as well!

For afternoon tea, there were a variety of hot drinks available. I had traditional black tea which was served in a cute tea pot.

There were a variety of sandwiches provided. I enjoyed the salmon. There were good veggie options too.

The scones were warm and quite small. This meant I could have two without feeling stuffed.

Finally we were presented with some little sponge cakes. Although they look quite ordinary, they were full of autumnal flavours. I loved the cinnamon ones with crunchy sugar on top.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a fantastic day out. Although they ask for donations, entry to most exhibitions is free- they only charge for the occasional temporary exhibition such as the Warhol/Morris one. As well as the galleries I've shown you, there's the Egyptian display to explore, lots of pre-Raphaelite art, more galleries about the history of Birmingham and the Staffordshire Hoard of course. They've done plenty to make it interesting for small children and if you feel like lingering, the tearoom is lovely. I had a great fish finger sandwich there one morning.


Photos by me.

I was invited to a blogger morning to showcase the museum. Entry is free to the public so I wouldn't have paid anyway. However we were treated to complimentary afternoon tea. 


char said...

I blinking love the Birmingham Museum. We spent a good few hours in there earlier this year when we stayed in Birmingham for the weekend. I particularly like the penguins picture above the main door. And some of the portraits are amazing. I haven't tried the tea rooms but they looked amazing and I love the old town model, as someone who has worked in that field it really interested me. I wasn't majorly taken with the Room of Dreams, which was a shame as I'd been looking forward to exploring it.

Sally Akins said...

I love the Birmingham Museum, it's full of so many wonderful things. I love taking my boys there as well :-) I quite fancy taking a look at the Room of Dreams, and now that I've seen the afternoon tea I am definitely going to try that!

Kezzie said...

It sounds a superbly interesting place to visit!! Id go. Hmmm, can I squeeze it in tomorrow??x

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