The Roman Baths
One of my favourite of Bath’s museums is the Roman Baths, partly because of the sheer splendour of it, but also the fact that it’s so un-British! Basically, the whole site is given over to a spring, heated rooms and plunge pools and of course the Pump Room Restaurant and the Roman Baths kitchen. In addition, their museum houses displays all about the settlement that the Romans once called Aquae Sulis, now called Bath. There’s simply so much to see – tombstones, altars, film projections, and even a haruspex stone – a special kind of inscribed priest’s stone dedicated to a Roman goddess. The exceptionality of this site is obvious when you realise that remains of Roman Britain only leave us two "truly classical" temples. Parts of the ornamental temple pediment are displayed here too, giving the area a sense of overwhelming history.
But the really exceptional feature of the Baths is the Sacred Spring. This water is rich in minerals but is also HOT. It rises straight from the earth at 46 degrees centigrade in great profusion, and the Romans were quick to capitalise on this incredible natural phenomenon… Also including a shop for related items, video displays and regular re-enactments, this fascinating museum is a must-do when visiting Bath.
The Jane Austen Centre
Lovers of classic and quintessentially English literature will adore The Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street. The exhibition centre is extensive, the shop is crammed full of unique literary gifts (a Jane Austen cookie cutter, anyone?), and the Regency Tea Room is just what you would hope for when seeking refreshing traditional cream teas and light meals.
An essential part of the charm of this museum is the costumes, but also the historical basis for situating such a museum here – Jane did live briefly on Gay Street in 1805. The Centre also operates walking tours and are instrumental in the organisation of the Jane Austen Festival held each September.
The Holburne Art Museum
Including permanent and temporary exhibitions, this museum/gallery hosts Music in The Museum – regular classical music events in this inspiring environment. Their regular collection highlights a collection of over 4,000 items entrusted and bequeathed to Bath people by the sister of Sir Thomas William Holburne. Thomas’s collection included some collected articles and other inherited items and on his death his sister’s gift to the city became the hub of the Art Museum. Some has been added since Holburne’s death, especially pictures and miniatures from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, but all additions ensure that the character of this collection is maintained.
The Victoria Art Gallery
All I can say about the Victoria Art Gallery is WOW. This public art gallery has recently held temporary exhibitions in such diverse artistic fields as "Great Western Railway in Art", Henry Moore, Katie Sims, "Society of Wood Engravers", "Sculpture and Sport" and so much more. Add to this their permanent collection of gallery art, some of which can be hired out, and their regular events (art for children, talks for the visually impaired etc), this wonderful location, full of Georgian caricatures, portraits and busts (one is of William Harbutt, the inventor of Plasticine!) houses a wonderfully diverse art collection. Combine the superb 1480 Adoration of the Magi by Ven der Goes with some incredible Gainsborough portraits, delicate watercolours and many pieces of porcelain, glassware and so much more, and you’re left with the Victoria Art Gallery – a superb and inspirational collection on Bridge Street.
Other Bath museums include the American Museum in Britain, The Herschel Museum of Astronomy, the Museum of Bath at Work, Number 1 Royal Crescent, the Museum of Costume, the Building of Bath Collection, the Beckford’s Tower and Museum, Haynes International Motor Museum, Lackock Abbey, Bath’s Theatre, the Fleet Air Arm Museum. Postal Museum, Museum of East Asian Art, the Somerset and Dorset Railway, the Radstock Museum and more!