Top Five Museums and Galleries in Cambridge
Which Should I Visit?
With more museums per square mile than any other city in the UK outside of London, you’re spoilt for choice for museums to visit in Cambridge. The city is home to some of the most highly regarded museums in the world, and their collections total over five million artefacts, objects, and works of art.
Cambridge has around twenty museums and galleries, so which ones should you visit? Here’s our list of our top five that you should prioritise seeing.
The Fitzwilliam Museum
The Fitzwilliam Museum is rightly seen as the University of Cambridge’s flagship museum. It is home to an incredible collection of antiquities and art spanning from the ancient to modern eras. Founded in 1816 by a legacy bequest from the 7th Viscount FitzWilliam, the collection has now grown to include artefacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome and works of art from Rembrandt, Monet, and Van Gogh.
Make sure to check out the impressionist and post-impressionist room to see works from Degas, Pissaro, and Seurat, and the Greek & Roman collection to see an Ancient Roman swiss army knife. The museum recently had the honour of displaying a set of priceless bronze sculptures by Michelangelo - the only surviving bronzework attributed to him. You’ll definitely need to set aside a few hours to fully explore this collection.
The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
The ‘Arch and Anth’ Museum is located next door to the University’s Department of Archaeology and is frequently used for research by its students, though it is also open to the public throughout the year. Its galleries cover world anthropology, world archaeology, and the archaeology of the city of Cambridge.
The museum also features a space for frequently changing temporary exhibitions. Recent exhibitions include ‘A Survival Story – Prehistoric Life at Star Carr’ (one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe), ‘Photographing Tutankhamun’, and ‘Another India’, which explored the heritage of some of the indigenous communities in the Indian subcontinent.
The Pepys Library
A rare example of a 17th century private library, the Pepys Library of Magdalene College is home to Samuel Pepys’ collection of books, manuscripts, documents, and prints and is laid out accordingly with how it would have been displayed in the 1600s. The star of the library is Pepys’ world-famous original diaries. He recorded in these his account of the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War, and the Great Fire of London.
The library has limited opening times (2pm-4pm on weekdays, and 11.30-12.30pm & 1.30-2.30pm on weekends), so make sure to plan your visit accordingly!
The Polar Museum
Located in the Scott Polar Research Institute, the Polar Museum exhibits artefacts, artworks, photographs, and documents relating to Polar life and exploration. It features detailed displays on the heroic expeditions of Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott, including a camera used by him at the South Pole.
The museum uniquely is able to display a holistic view of everything relating to the Arctic and Antarctic, ranging from 20th century exploration to art and cultural objects from the areas’ indigenous peoples. The museum also has a small space for temporary exhibitions, usually focusing on the lives of explorers or on polar art.
Kettle’s Yard is a modern and contemporary art gallery that reopened in February 2018 after a major refurbishment. The building is comprised of four cottages that have been converted into one art gallery, with each room representing a different style or art movement.
Jim Ede, former curator at the Tate, originally owned and lived in the building, before donating his collection and the building to the university. As such, many of his friends and peers are represented in the collection, including Alfred Wallis, Helen Frankenthaler, and Henry Moore.
Cambridge is full of cutting edge, world leading museums – this is just a snapshot of what the city has to offer, but it’s a great start in getting to know the cultural history of the city.
On the Oxbridge International Summer School you have the opportunity to spend an entire day in Cambridge, where you can explore these museums and soak up the city’s culture. Book your place on one of our courses today and have an unforgettable summer.
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