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Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

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by Tom Fieldhouse (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son. I love my city, and love to live here. I write about Bath a lot, and sometimes about travels in Ireland and France.
Published October 29th 2017
Bold, Beautiful and Brilliant Bristol Art Museum
The lovely interior

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is a wonderful place for people of all ages and interests. Housed in a beautiful Victorian building, there are three floors of exhibits and rooms, arranged around a massive atrium that is filled with lovely things to see. Not to mention there is also a cafe, special exhibition and children's play and education area. To top it all off, there is free admission for all, although any donations are greatly appreciated. At the heart of Bristol's lovely Park Street, the museum is also centrally located and part of a wonderful place to explore. Perfect weekend material.

The brilliant replica 'Bristol Box Kite'.

Staffed by happy and friendly ladies and gentlemen, there are always people who will answer any queries and questions. As you can see above, the atrium is also often used for events and exhibitions. Today it was a book and music sale, staffed by local folks who were fundraising for a Bristol charity. The cafe and play area can be found straight on from the atrium, behind the sweeping stone staircase.

Children's area
Fun and food for all

A real highlight of the Museum is their wonderful collection of fossils and dinosaur bones. With creatures ranging in size from a pea to an articulated lorry, there are fascinating things to see. Until March 2018, there is a special exhibition all about 'Doris', the Museum's own 30 foot Sea Pliosaur. The exhibition is a young person's dream, full of interactive displays, a lifesize model of the dinosaur, and of course, Doris herself. There are information boards and activities aplenty, so it is also wonderful for adult visitors.

Doris, the sea creature

Accessed by a lift or the main staircase, the first floor offers all sorts of museum exhibits. There are a great deal more fossils and dinosaurs featured, but my favourite is a genuine 19th Century travellers caravan, that has been beautifully preserved. Visitors can look inside it, and run their hands along its finely crafted shape. It is lovely, and a perfect example of what makes this museum great. You never know what to expect next.

The wonderful waggon

Go up another floor and there is an Internationally renowned Art Gallery. This has a much more quiet and academic feel to it, but is still very welcoming and family-friendly. The huge, long rooms host art and sculpture from many centuries and have lovely seating areas for guests to sit and enjoy the paintings.

Art Gallery
Fabulous art

The highlight of the whole place for me is the 'Pre-Raphaelite' room. Offering incredible canvasses from this brotherhood of artists, there is also an exquisite painting, 'The Siren and the Fisherman', which I love. I genuinely think that this gallery has works that rival that of any London venue, and maybe even surpass them.

Superb paintings

One floor up is not for the faint-hearted but offers an almost morbid fascination. There is a remarkable collection of taxidermy, from all corners of the globe. Whether unusual beetles are your thing or exotic birds, then all can be found here. On a practical note, so many of the creatures look tremendously lifelike, so a little preparatory chat with little ones is a good idea. My son has a love/hate relationship with the most famous exhibit, namely Alfred the gorilla, who lived at Bristol Zoo for decades.

Some of the stuffed animals on display

This special place is proudly Bristolian and treasures its history and culture. This article has only really scratched the surface of what is on offer, so I would recommend taking several hours to fully enjoy the exhibits. There is also a thoroughly modern feel to the place though. At the foot of the stairs can be found a Victorian Angel statue all spattered with paint, with a paint can on her head. This provocative work of art is by none other than the mysterious Bristol resident Banksy, who staged a brilliant exhibition here in 2001. History, art, modern artists - what more could a person want?

Part of Banksy's 'Banksy vs Bristol Art Gallery' exhibition

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Why? Awesome Art, History, Fossils and More
When: Every day
Phone: 0117 922 3571
Where: Queens Rd, Bristol BS8 1RL, UK
Cost: Free admission (donations welcome)
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