Williamson Art Gallery and Museum

photograph of exterior of williamson art gallery
Shop icon Study area icon Wheelchair access icon

Located outside the centre of Birkenhead, the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum was purpose-built and was opened in December 1928.

The building is named after John and Patrick Williamson, father and son, who each bequeathed a substantial sum of money to Birkenhead Borough Council.

The Williamson has built a strong regional reputation for the quality and variety of its exhibitions and houses the vast majority of Birkenhead's collection of art and history collections, some of which are displayed in a series of varied and well proportioned galleries.

Always on show is the largest single display of ship models in the area, focusing on Cammell Laird shipbuilders and their contribution to marine history, the Mersey Ferries and the variety of vessels that used the River Mersey when it was at its busiest.

Venue Type:

Museum, Gallery

Opening hours

Wednesday to Sunday 10-5pm

Admission charges


Collection details

Archaeology, Archives, Decorative and Applied Art, World Cultures, Fine Art, Natural Sciences, Weapons and War, Science and Technology, Social History, Land Transport, Maritime

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
white figure sculptures

The Spider Project: Beyond the Label

  • 2 February — 17 March 2019 *on now

The Spider Project’s ‘Move On Up’ initiative has engaged over 250 people over the past 2 years. All of whom struggle with social isolation and suffer with issues such poor mental health, long-term health conditions and low self-confidence. Over 50 member artists have worked together to produce Beyond the Label in a bid to demonstrate and evidence how life has improved for each and every one of them since engaging with The Spider Project.

This multimedia exhibition showcases film, music, photography, sculpture, water and acrylic art works as well as including creative writing. There will also be the unveiling of a sculptured life-size football installation promoting inclusion and the power of community.

Suitable for

  • Any age



man running against an old industrial building & blue sky

How We Look: Wirral Met Fellows

  • 2 February — 17 March 2019 *on now

This year the exhibition features a collaborative project undertaken by the 2018 fellows Louis Jeck Prestidge and Jonathan Benson with WMC lecturer Michelle Rowley. Responding to her site-specific MA research project, set in the stalled Liverpool Innovation Park, Michelle commissioned the fellows to develop a collaborative film work.

This invitation provided a creative space for Louis and Jonny to reflect on a new set of ideas and determine how their own personal practices might engage with the themes Michelle was investigating. ‘Hunting Ground’, is the result of this collaborative experiment. Drawing together ideas concerning the re-imagining of place and assigning anthropological meaning, the empty ‘parkland’ reverts to a hunting ground where metaphorical hunting prompts open questions as to the purpose of the chase.

Anna Jones looking up and smiling

Living In The Moment

  • 6 — 24 February 2019 *on now

James Deegan returns to the Williamson to exhibit his newest photography series. The images, shot in high contrast black and white, are of people who have had a difficult past and now choose to live life to the full, one day at a time.

Their humour and their stories are life affirming, and ultimately what inspired James to conceive the project and exhibition.

Archer Sculpture

Stephen Hitchin: Shooting the Sun

  • 2 March — 14 April 2019

Stephen cites the extreme environment of the maritime world as the main inspiration for his work. It is the energy and the continually changing environment which he finds inspiring for his practice. Artists have been captivated by the sea for centuries: romance, tragedy, myths, exploration, trade and communication have all been facilitated by the sea.

Navigation was traditionally based on plotting your course by ‘Shooting the Sun’. The term refers to measuring the altitude of the s
un in order to determine latitude, essential in locating your true position at sea.
The work for this exhibition is principally made of marble and concerned with three dimensional space, form and line. His sculptures offer as much importance to space and shadows as to the solidity of material. Each work changes with light and viewpoint reflecting the environment that inspired them.

Suitable for

  • Any age
Abstract painting in dark blues

Williamson Open Art & Photography exhibit

  • 30 March — 5 May 2019

The Williamson Open continues a tradition stretching back to 1913, when Birkenhead’s first Museum and Art Gallery held the Birkenhead Spring exhibition. It was open to local artists, amateur and professional alike, to enter work on an equal footing and from that event some of the earliest pictures in the gallery’s collection were selected.

The present exhibition is run on the same footing but is now also open to photographers as well as to artists in paint, pencil, collage, print, textiles, digital media, ceramics and various materials for sculpture.

The Williamson Open is open to artists and photographers who have connections with Wirral through birth, education, residency or occupation.

Last year’s Art Prize was won by Janine Pinion and Dennis Spicer, and the Photography Prize by Rose Mair, with the winning works becoming part of the Williamson’s art collection for the Wirral. Visitors may also nominate their favourite entries for the Kriterion Prize

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.
Rhinoceros after Durer

Animal Encounters

  • 10 January 2018 — 1 September 2019 *on now


Throughout history, artists have created drawings and paintings of animals reflecting their personal relationships, because animals have always been important to human life. Stone Age people decorated their caves with images of the animals they hunted for food. The ancient Egyptians depicted many of their gods with heads of animals. In recent centuries the images have been more complex, illustrating the extraordinary nature of exotic creatures, the struggles between man and beast, the ‘wildness’ of nature or the individual beauty of an animal.
We tend to categorise animals as ‘wild’, ‘farm’ or ‘domestic’. Why do we do this and can the categories be broken down? This exhibition invites visitors to examine how humans interact and respond to the animal kingdom and add to our enquiry within the exhibition.

The Animal Encounters exhibition brings together paintings, drawings, prints and objects from across the museum collection depicting animals in a wide range of settings. The selection may change from time to time, especially to include work by living local artists contributing to the theme.

The exhibition will be used as a catalyst for our learning programme at the Williamson with schools, pre-schoolers and families with Gallery Four becoming a space dedicated to sharing and celebrating art works and artefacts from across the gallery and stores that inspire enquiry around animals. The art-work and artefacts selected will provide comment on animal encounters on domestic, natural and manipulated settings. The conservation agenda of animals and their habitats will be woven into the exhibition with the support of the community team at Chester Zoo in Spring 2018. The world famous zoo is working to tackle one of the most urgent threats to species worldwide, the illegal wildlife trade. This exciting new partnership with Williamson’s Art Gallery is a fantastic opportunity to provide people with the opportunity to explore and question our historic and current relationship with the natural world.

Conservation has been woven into the exhibition with the support of the safari ranger team from Chester Zoo. They are ready to visit your school to deliver FREE interactive workshops with a range of biofacts and activities, to explore our relationship with the natural world, to engage your pupils and to inspire action.

Anya Moon from Chester Zoo explains what they’re up to…

“Last year we launched a campaign to raise awareness, fund and create solutions towards solving this major issue

“We need the public to be the ‘eyes and ears’ and report anything they suspect could be illegal wildlife trade. To facilitate this, we partnered with Taronga Zoo, San Diego Zoo and TRAFFIC as the European lead on the Wildlife Witness project. People can report wildlife trade in South East Asia through the FREE Wildlife Witness smartphone app with all the information going straight to TRAFFIC to be investigated.

“Following on from this project, we then partnered with the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit and TRAFFIC to develop an online reporting form where members of the public can highlight anyillegal wildlife trade outside of South East Asiaand in the UK. We are encouraging BIAZA members to share these reporting resources amongst colleagues, project partners and members of the public in order to work together to help fight the illegal wildlife trade.

“Our flagship project in Java works to protect Indonesian songbirds that are being captured and trapped for the unrelenting cage bird trade. We are working alongside the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre to develop long-term strategies for their survival and are hopeful that we can reintroduce birds back into the wild. Last year saw the launch of our Sing for Songbirds campaign, raising awareness and funds for the conservation of these beautiful and rare songbirds.”

What can you do to get involved?

· Visit the Williamson’s Art Galley Animal Encounters exhibition

· Book for a Chester Zoo Safari Ranger to visit your school and run a FREE interactive workshop for your class

· If you want to run the theme as an immersive cross-curricular learning project within your school the Chester Zoo Safari Ranger team can also visit your school to run a FREE teacher CPD workshop

· Organise a visit to Chester Zoo to see first-hand the amazing animals we look after and to find out more about the conservation projects that we support (entrance fee applies)

A bit more about the Safari Ranger visit to your school….

The intrepid Safari Rangers will arrive at your school in the Rangermobile and bring along a host ofbiofacts for use in your workshops. Elephant tusks, snake skins, macaw feathers, skulls, porcupine quills or ostrich eggs are just a few of the amazing biofacts which our Safari Ranger may use to teach your pupils about the natural world and our relationship with it in our interactive workshop. The zoo’s artefacts really do bring a little bit of the zoo to you! For any class visiting the Animal Encounters exhibition, the zoo would like to offer a FREE 50 minute workshop which can be delivered before or after a visit to the Animal Encounters exhibition.

The galleries are open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm, but staff shortages may necessitate early closure of some rooms at the end of the day. Please note the gallery is closed between 23rd of December 2017 and 10th of January. Schools arranged visits can occur on Mondays and Tuesdays in term-time (despite the building being closed to the public).

Suitable for

  • Any age





people carrying souvenirs

Souvenirs from the Far East; an illustrated talk

  • 21 February 2019 7-9pm *on now

In today’s global economy and in close proximity to the large Liverpool port, the majority of objects we are surrounding ourselves with are Made in China, Japan, and South Korea. Vast ships, loaded with thousands of containers filled with consumer items travel thousands of sea miles on a daily basis. Students and tourist fly across time zones from East to West and vice versa searching for education, employment or the culturally exotic. Time-zones and travel distances have lost their significance due to face time and skype. Have ‘cultural identities become more fluid within the ‘global village’?

The presentation will use slides of various souvenirs from the Far East held in the basement of the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, to discuss the long tradition of influences of Chinese artefacts on Western Art whilst simultaneously reflecting on the precarious role of the artist in the ‘global village’.

Dr. Brigitte Jurack is Head of Sculpture/time based arts at Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University. She is a sculptor and performance artist, and as director of Alternator studios, she has initiated “Translating the street”, a series of micro-residencies for artists to engage with the diverse and multi-cultural neighbourhood on Oxton Road , Birkenhead.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


£3, pay on the door



Williamson Art Gallery and Museum
Slatey Road
Birkenhead, Wirral
CH43 4UE






0151 6663537

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.