Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery
Drake Circus


Main Website

The Cottonian Collection



01752 304774


01752 304775

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
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Founded in 1910, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery has a varied programme of exhibitions and events, a shop and cafe as well as galleries highlighting its art, human history and natural history collections.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

Tuesday to Friday - 10am to 5.30pm
Saturday - 10am to 5pm
Closed Sundays and Mondays

Admission charges


The Cottonian collection at Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery is a Designated Collection of national importance.

The Designated Cottonian Collection was bequeathed to the city of Plymouth by William Cotton (1794 -1863) from whom it takes its name, but the collection was largely assembled during the 18th century by Charles Rogers (1711 - 1784). His connoisseurship, combined with an extensive network of contacts in the art world, resulted in a collection of some 20,000 prints, drawings and paintings, regarded by his contemporaries as one of the finest in England. A 30-day sale in 1799 reduced the collection by two thirds but, nevertheless, the collection inherited by Plymouth is of outstanding quality and provides rare insights into the history of printmaking.

The Cottonian Collection gallery features paintings by Reynolds, Kaufmann, Ruysdael, Laroon etc; works on paper by Altdorfer, Watteau, Guercino etc; furniture, figurines and prints.

Permanent galleries showcase items from World Cultures, Ancient Egypt, archaeology, maritime and local history, Natural History and Fine and Decorative Art collections.

Collection details

World Cultures, Social History, Photography, Personalities, Natural Sciences, Maritime, Land Transport, Fine Art, Decorative and Applied Art, Coins and Medals, Archaeology, Weapons and War

Key artists and exhibits

  • Joshua Reynolds - various
  • A Kaufmann - Beauty Yielded Unto Love...
  • E Burne-Jones - Venus Concordia
  • Stanhope Forbes - The Fish Sale
  • Patrick Heron - Rectilinear Reds & Blues
  • Prunella Clough - Waiting
  • Beryl Cook - Lockyer St Tavern
  • J W Waterhouse - The Hamadryad
  • J M W Turner - Kilchurn Castle
  • J M W Turner - Plymouth from Mount Edgcumbe
  • A Landini - Indecision
  • H S Tuke - Taking a Spell
  • J Olsson - The Sound...
  • Newlyn Paintings
  • Camden Town
  • Maritime Paintings
  • Exhibits may not always be out on permanent display. Please contact the Museum to check before paying us a visit if there is something you specifically wish to see.
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

In the Frame: Plymouth's Portraits Revealed

  • 13 December 2014 — 24 December 2015 *on now

Come and see an exhibition that delves more deeply into Plymouth's portrait collection and presents new research into some of the characters that are new or rarely seen. See self-portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, James Northcote and Edward Opie. Come face to face with maritime greats, important local faces and families too.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Beauty and Power

  • 24 January — 9 May 2015 *on now

Come and see a stunning exhibition celebrating 'Plymouth’s Greatest Gift - the Cottonian Collection - and the 100th anniversary of its transfer by an Act of Parliament to the care of the Plymouth Corporation (now Plymouth City Council). Initially part of the Proprietary Library, it is now one of the most important collections held at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery. Highlights of this important show include some of the famous books from the library and rarely-seen drawings by Italian and Dutch Old Masters.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Wildlife Photographer of the Year

  • 28 March — 30 May 2015 *on now

Witness the Natural History Museum's annual exhibition which celebrates the drama and splendour of the natural world, with striking, creative and thought-provoking wildlife photography.

This year's exhibition marks the 50th anniversary and blends new and historic award-winning images to tell the story of how photographing the natural world has changed.

With challenging documentary, intimate portraits, animal behaviour and atmospheric landscapes, 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year' showcases the power of images to magnificent effect, bringing the talent and vision of each photographer to all who visit.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Fallen Emperor: Napoleon in Plymouth Sound in 1815

  • 23 May — 26 September 2015

In the summer of 1815, for nine dramatic days, HMS Bellerophon was anchored in Plymouth Sound with the self-styled French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte on board. Our exhibition will be centred on the popular painting from our collections by Jules Girardet that depicts this scene. It will explore the story of the Bellerophon as well as the differing perceptions of Napoleon on his journey to Plymouth.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Mystery, Magic and Midnight Feasts: The Many Adventures of Enid Blyton

  • 17 June — 5 September 2015

Immerse yourself in the world of Enid Blyton - one of the best-selling writers for children of all time.

'Mystery, Magic and Midnight Feasts' will showcase Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books' unique collection of Blyton's original manuscripts and illustrations as well as her personal diaries and typewriter.

Explore the Malory Towers Common Room, adventure with The Famous Five, discover Toyland with Noddy and escape to The Magic Faraway Tree with Silky and Moonface.

We will be running a number of fun, family-friendly activities throughout the summer of 2015 in connection with this exhibition - for children young and old!

Suitable for

  • Any age


Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

Plymouth History Festival 2015

  • 1 — 31 May 2015

From 1 to 31 May 2025 organisations, venues, groups and societies will celebrate the unique history and heritage of Plymouth with a Festival of events including exhibitions and displays, walks, talks, tours, family events, special events and more.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Admission prices and booking procedures vary for each event. Please check the Festival website for full details.


Cabinets of Curiosity

  • 15 May 2015 6-8:30pm

Do you want to know what happens in the Museum when the front doors have closed? Come along and find out for yourselves!

Specimens from the Museum and Art Gallery's natural history store rooms will be out for you to see. There will be thousands of insects, hundreds of pickled creatures and a lot of activities too.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

The Imaginators

The Imaginators are a group of toddlers aged from around 18 months old and upwards, pre-school children, mums, dads, grandparents and carers who meet up on selected Wednesdays throughout the year to explore the Museum and have fun! With a focus on play, exploration and learning, every week is different as we journey around our galleries, objects and paintings.
The children learn to build relationships and try their hand at activities such as painting, singing and making, all the time using their developing skills and their imaginations.
Younger siblings/older babies are welcome too. Sessions run from 10.30-11.30 and are led by one of our Arts Education Officers.

How to obtain

Advance booking is essential so call Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery on 01752 304665 to reserve your place(s).

Wild About Plymouth

Wild About Plymouth is a family-friendly natural history group that is open to anyone in the Plymouth area. It is led by enthusiastic experts from Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth City Council’s Nature Conservation Team and the University of Plymouth, plus other selected partners. We have a range of events on offer between now and summer 2009. See the website for a full calendar of Wild About Plymouth events.