Town Guide

For many years Birmingham was viewed by many as a cultural wasteland.

However, today nothing could be further from the truth.

There are numerous museums and art galleries covering a wide variety of subjects, so there should be something for everyone.

| Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery | Barber Institute of Fine Arts |
| Museum of the Jewellery Quarter | Ikon Gallery |
| Black Country Museum |

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

This Museum and Art gallery, founded in 1885, is one of Birmingham's prime tourist attractions. The building itself, with its clock tower nicknamed "Big Brum", is a well-recognised Birmingham landmark visible from miles araound.

But the museum is most famous for its renowned art collection. For example, it is home to the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in Britain and includes several significant works by artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and Holman Hunt.

As well as the Pre-Raphaelite collection there is also a good collection from the English Arts and Crafts movement, and an extensive collection of international art.

And aside from the galleries, the museum part is also excellent, recounting Birmingham's industrial past in an informative and interesting way. And there are also galleries covering subjects such as archaeology, ethnography and natural history.

The museum and gallery is open daily from 10am to 5pm Mondays to Saturdays and from 12.30pm to 5pm on Sundays.

Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Situated a few miles from Birmingham City Centre, in the district of Edgbaston, this small art gallery is run by the University of Birmingham.

It was founded in 1932 by Lady Barber, who was married to a wealthy Birmingham businessman.

The building was built between 1935 and 1939 by leading British architect Robert Atkinson. And it is considered by many to be one of the best examples of 1930s architecture.

As well as for the architecture, it is well worth visiting the Barber Institute for its paintings. For although small, the collection includes some excellent pieces by big names such as Gainsborough, Rubens, Monet, Turner, Renoir and van Gogh.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is open daily from 10am to 5pm Mondays to Saturdays and from 2pm to 5pm on Sundays.

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter

Previously called the Jewellery Quarter Discovery, this excellent museum recounts the history of Birmingham's famous Jewellery Quarter, along with demonstrations and explanations on the craft of jewellery making.

The museum is housed in the old Smith and Pepper jewellery factory on Vyse Street. The factory was in business for over 80 years, and then when it shut down in 1981 it was left exactly as it was on the last day of production.

Then the factory was opened to the public as a record of the life and work of this vibrant part of Birmingham.

The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is open daily except Sundays, from 10am to 4pm Mondays to Fridays and from 11am to 5pm Saturdays. Admission costs £2.

Ikon Gallery

Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, 4K The Ikon Gallery is a small art gallery located in Brindley Place in the city centre, just to the south of New Street.
The gallery specialises in contemporary art and it is regarded by many as one of the best modern art galleries in the country, if not Europe.

Exhibitions change regularly and feature artists from both the UK and abroad. And most importantly they are usually free.

The Ikon Gallery is open daily except Mondays, from 11am to 7pm Tuesdays to Fridays and from 11am to 5pm Saturdays and Sundays.

Black Country Museum

This museum is to be found several miles to the west of central Birmingham, in the district of Dudley.

The name comes from the fact that Birmingham and the surrounding area were once nicknamed the "Black Country" after the black smoke that used to hang over the factories here.

The museum covers 26 acres and is effectively a re-created village that demonstrates life and work in the Black Country in the 19th century.

There are exhibitions on all the different industries that Birmingham was once famous for. And you can visit shops, homes, a schoolhouse and even take a ride underground to the coal seams.

The result is an excellent museum that is especially appealing to children, so it is well worth a visit.

The Black Country Museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm from March until October, and from Wednesdays to Sundays from 10am to 4pm between November and February. Admission costs around £6 for adults.

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