I’ve already frothed about the V&A in an earlier post, so in the interest of local pride, I will name Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
When I was a kid, there was very little to do at the weekends or in the holidays, and we had no cash to travel very far afield. Apart from visits to the swimming baths, and Saturday matinees at the local cinema [long gone] we had just two options: riding round on the Outer Circle bus route [very very dull, but better than staying in the house] or nip into the city centre to the museums, because they were free, and dry!
Always arty, I would happily stare at the paintings and pre-Raphaelite collections for hours, but if I had to take my younger brother and sister, we would go to the Natural History section and have a great time pressing all the buttons to set birds tweeting, snakes rattling, and, best of all, the dinosaur roaring. Sometimes we trekked to the Science Museum, now moved, reduced, and made costly.
The Natural History section has also been removed, and the whole place is a shadow of its former self. However it is still a beautiful building, and has lots of locally produced glass, iron and china. There is also an ‘Edwardian’ tea room.
The pre-Raphaelite collection is excellent, and every so often, the ‘Holy Grail’ tapestries come out of storage and are put on show. Designed by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and John Henry Dearle they are beautiful and ethereal.
Years later, when making costumes for a local amateur opera company, I often used paintings to inspire, and the producer and I often made mood boards for the chorus to show them what we wanted. We used a lot of postcards from the art gallery.
I was always a bit let-down by the very small textile/costume collection, but the paintings go a long way to filling the gap!