The Culture24 Crystal Ball: The big History and Heritage exhibitions to look out for in 2013

By Ben Miller Published: 03 January 2013

A black and white photo of rows of women packing boxes of chocolate inside a factory
Confectionary in February at M Shed, which will be taking a look at 300 years of chocolate in Bristol and beyond© Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives

Ahead of a packed year of History and Heritage museum exhibitions, we take a look at a few of the major ones already confirmed for 2013...


A black and white overhead photo of fields and buildings around a wartime RAF site
RAF Duxford
The Watch Office, at the heart of the Imperial War Museum Duxford site, was originally built in 1917, containing a desk chair, telephone book and, as veteran George Unwin recalled, “no facilities for tea or having a kip.”

Now the space will house a new permanent exhibition, Historic Duxford (opening March 2013), telling the story of the airfield during its active years between 1918 and 1961. Visit their blog for more.

At the same time, the Home Guard – the Captain Mainwarings, Private Pikes et al, made famous by Dad's Army – were defending Britain while the Blitzkrieg swept France in 1940.

In total, 1.5 million men served in the Guard’s ranks, recalled by The Home Guard an exhibition at Ashton-under-Lyne’s Museum of the Manchester Regiment (until June 22).

A more modern resistance, of the Egyptian people, appears at Ikon. Defiance (January 8 – February 3) marks the second anniversary of the country’s revolution with photos of guns, teargas, elections, makeshift clinics and Molotov cocktails, portrayed by photojournalist Mosa’ab Elshamy.

A photo of a man standing on the ground in front of army security personnel
Defiance at Ikon Gallery© Courtesy Mosa'ab Elshamy
The Mac Birmingham also looks east: Sonia Audhali’s show, Little Yemen, (February 9 – April 14) reveals the 150-year lineage of Yemeni communities in the West Midlands.

The 4th century Iron Age Witham Shield, found in a river in Lincolnshire 185 years ago, returns to The Collection, in Lincoln, on loan from the British Museum (March 13 – June 9).

Norwich Castle Museum enters a fantasy realm, meeting Frodo Baggins, Snow White and more through story books, ceramics, toys, games, film props and merchandise in the V&A Museum of Childhood touring show Magic Worlds (from January 26).


There's eclectic fare in Scotland: Tickling Jock (February 23 – May 25), at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, celebrates Sir Harry Lauder, Ronnie Corbett, Billy Connelly and more, featuring listening booths and recording opportunities for wannabe jokers.

A photo of a blue and yellow oil painting of a male comedian sitting in an armchair
Heidi Harrington, Ronnie Corbett (2003). Oil on canvas© Private Collection
Vikings (February 16 - May 5) arrives with more than 500 precious objects at the National Museum of Scotland (February 16 – May 5), and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art surveys 500 years of spellmaking in Witches and Wicked Bodies (July 27 – November 3), including depictions by William Blake and Paula Rego.

Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura receives a British Museum touring display on the mysterious Lochar Moss (June 15 – August 4).


Themed events at M Shed, held in support of its look at 300 years of Chocolate (February 2 – May 6), promise a sweet show in Bristol.

The city’s Museum also hosts two superlative displays from the British Museum in the form of Pharoah: King of Egypt (March 16 – July 21, accompanied by a host collection of Belzoni watercolours illustrating the layout of Sety I’s tomb) and Empire: Roman Power and People (opens September 21), uniting sculptures from villas and representations of gods among more than 120 objects.

Antonio Stradivari – aka Stradivarius – is perhaps the most famous musical instrument crafter of all time. His legacy, forged between 1644 and 1737, is the subject of a three-gallery display at Oxford’s Ashmolean (June 13 – August 11), following the creation of a violin from log to finished item.


A photo of a Native American tribesman in profile, wearing a white hat and face paint
Assiniboine dancer Kevin Haywahe with face paint (2005)© Jeff Thomas
Feather headdresses, moccasins, pipes and tomahawks narrate 200 Years of Native North American Honour and Ritual at the Manchester Museum (May 24 – November 3).

The 200th anniversary of America’s Mason-Dixon transport line, by Jeremiah Dixon, is commemorated with model ships, historic maps and more at the Bowes (April 27 – October 6).

Further back, sometime during the 1st and 2nd centuries, The Backworth Horde was buried on Tyne and Wear. It returns to the Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend (May 23 – September 15).


A true flight of passion, Airfix kits have been enthusing aviation fans since the 1950s. A new show, Airfix – Making History, considers their impact alongside make-and-take sessions at the Royal Air Force Museum (opens May 27, transferring to RAF Cosford in Autumn 2014).

Another transport institution, the London Underground, sparks the year-long 150 Years of the London Underground at the London Transport Museum.

A photo of two male actors in suits against a pink-coloured background
Michael Caine heads to the Museum of London for his 80th birthday.
Michael Caine is 80 on March 14. To celebrate, the Museum of London reflects on his life as a thespian and Londoner (March 8 – July 14).

It also hosts an investigation – The Cheapside Hoard: London's Lost Jewels – of the “extraordinary and priceless” 16th and 17th century jewels and gems discovered in a cellar in 1912, displayed in their entirety for the first time in more than a century (opens October 11).

Spectacular discoveries in the British Museum show, Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (March 28 – September 29), will feature more than 250 objects in collaboration with the Archaeological Superintendency of Naples and Pompeii.

The museum also focuses on Age of Enlightenment Greece with a Gallery 90 show, In Search of Classical Greece: Travel Drawings of Edward Dodwell and Simone Pomardi (February 7 – April 28).

A new permanent gallery at the National Maritime Museum, Nelson, Navy Nation (opens October), will look at officers, press-ganged civilians and 12-year-old midshipmen during the tumultuous 18th century, when Lord Nelson was a legendary figure and sea heroes became instant celebrities.

An image of an oil painting of an 18th century ship admiral in full regal attire
Nelson, Navy Nation in Greenwich
Similar bravery was demanded by the extreme severe winters Londoners experienced between the late 17th and 19th centuries, examined by a new display, Frozen London, at the London Metropolitan Archives (January 21 – April 25).

The sleeping arrangements of the 17th and 18th century royal court (“beds – but not as you know them!”) figure at Hampton Court Palace, which sets six magnificent beds at the centre of Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber (March 27 – November 3).

One of the most unusual shows will be at the Foundling Museum, where Fate, Hope and Charity (January 25 – May 19) tells the stories of babies abandoned with tell-tale tokens by their mothers at the hospital during the 18th century. The exhibition is informed by ten years of research.

Want more inspiration for 2013? See our previews of the year in Science and Nature, Art in London and Art elsewhere across the country.
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: