Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

venue representative image

Founded in 1910, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is currently closed for the development of the Plymouth History Centre.

This ground breaking venue will see the Museum, Central Library and St Luke's Church buildings transformed into a brand new cultural and heritage centre with galleries, exhibitions, events, food, drink, retail and research facilities.

The History Centre is set to open in spring 2020 as part of Plymouth's commemorations for Mayflower 400 - the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims setting sail aboard the Mayflower for the New World.

Venue Type:

Museum, Gallery

Opening hours

We are currently closed for the development of the Plymouth History Centre.

While construction work is taking place we are running a 'Museum On Tour' programme with exhibitions, events and community projects in a range of locations.

Admission charges

We are currently closed for development and due to re-open in spring 2020.

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.

Museum On Tour: Britain in the Fifties: Design and Aspiration

  • 25 March — 3 June 2017 *on now

Come and see a vision of the country from 60 years ago as we explore the history of post-war design in this nationally touring exhibition organised by Compton Verney. The 1950s was a time when Britain emerged from a period of austerity and rationing after the Second World War. Following the ground-breaking Festival of Britain of 1951, design played a crucial role in shaping our ‘Brave New World’. As Britain began to modernise itself and become more prosperous, it led the world with the quality and innovation of its decorative and applied arts. Leading artists became household names and good design became affordable. This exhibition looks at all aspects of 1950s design, both inside and outside the home, with a diverse range of objects including furnishings, fabrics, ceramics, cutlery, magazines, machinery and the iconic Vespa. It will also include objects and moving images from our collection. This is a 'Museum On Tour' exhibition for the Plymouth History Centre. Image credit: Vespa GL in metallic green, from an image supplied by Bristol Museums Galleries and Archives.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Admission free

Museum On Tour: Plymouth From Destruction to Construction

  • 6 May — 4 June 2017 *on now

Plymouth suffered greatly during World War II. The docks and naval base made it a major target resulting in the almost total destruction of the city centre and the displacement of tens of thousands of Plymothians. Amongst this charred and ruined city, a radical new plan was developed to enable its complete redesign and reconstruction. MPs, Councillors and planners sought out the finest architects, designers and artists to create a new city – a modern city – worthy of replacing what had been lost. The city we see today epitomises the ambition and vision of this post-war planning. This exhibition includes fascinating objects, images and footage from the collections of Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office and the South West Film and Television Archive that explore the themes of destruction and reconstruction. Visitors of all ages can experience the inside of an Anderson Shelter, dress up in a range of replica clothing and marvel at the stunning 1950s interior of the Council House itself.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Admission free

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

  • 6 May — 4 June 2017 *on now

Plymouth History Festival is an annual celebration of Plymouth’s history and heritage and takes place across the city in a range of venues and locations. The programme features nearly 100 different events including:, Exhibitions and DisplaysGuided Walks and ToursTalksFamily ActivitiesSpecial EventsMusic, Film and Event
PerformanceVisit the History Festival website for the full programme and to download a brochure.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Admission fees apply to some events

Family Event: Navigators of the Sea

  • 31 May 2017 10am-12pm

Come along and celebrate the amazing achievements of Sir Francis Chichester’s Circumnavigation of the world. He sailed in the wake of anEvent famous sailor, our very own Sir Francis Drake. Create a map showing both their routes and paper versions of their boats. Get close up with some nautical artefacts such as a sextant. See a display all about Sir Francis Chichester’s voyage. You will also have the unique opportunity to meet Sir Francis Chichester’s son Giles who will be there to explain all about the nautical artefacts on display and tell us about his sailing adventures with his father. As both mariners left and returned to and from Plymouth, there will be a ‘Drake and Chichester Circumnavigating the Hoe and Barbican’ trail to take away with you so you can continue your discoveries! Admission is free.Tickets are required for children only. Accompanying adults do not need to book. This is a drop-in event but advance booking is advised to avoid disappointment as there are limited spaces. This event is part of a series of commemorations taking place in Plymouth in May 2017 to mark 50 years since Sir Francis Chichester completed his epic solo navigation of the world.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Admission free

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.

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.