A cultural capital in the South West, Exeter offers a superb selection of museums and galleries including the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) with a range of galleries displaying exhibits on Exeter and Devon’s history, World Cultures, natural history and decorative and fine arts. The city is a centre for contemporary art and cinema memorabilia featuring leading contemporary art gallery Spacex, multi-arts venue the Exeter Phoenix, and just outside the city centre The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum on the university’s Streatham Campus.
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM)
As its name suggests, this vast free entry museum and gallery had royal beginnings, conceived in the Victorian era and dedicated to Prince Albert. The collection includes outstanding British and European art, particularly Victorian and 20th century art. Landscapes of Devon and Exeter feature strongly, and amongst RAMM’s art collection are several landscapes by JMW Turner, Thomas Rowlandson and Francis Danby. Galleries and exhibitions with a Devon focus display Roman local finds, explore themes such as the history of fine clock making in the region and feature classic Devon ceramics and glassware.
Exeter was a key Roman centre, and the museum explores this period of the city’s history in great detail. Exhibits include a mural reconstruction of the Roman fortress which once stood in the city. There is also a fine model of a Roman bathhouse discovered in Exeter close to the Cathedral. RAMM is open all year round, with regular family activities and tours available. When it opened in 1868 the Royal Albert included a library, galleries, a museum and a school of art and science. The York Wing was added later in 1899. New galleries and exhibits have recently been introduced after an award-winning redevelopment.
St Nicholas Priory
Learn about day to day life in Tudor Exeter at St Nicholas Priory on Mint Lane. This ornate Grade Listed Tudor home was originally part of Exeter’s very first medieval monastery and is furnished in the style of an Elizabethan townhouse. A great visitor experience, the Priory offers children ample opportunity to get busy in the kitchen and dress up in Tudor costume.
The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum
Home to around 75,000 cinema related artefacts, this superb British Cinema Museum is essential visiting for film fans, located in Research Commons, Old Library on Exeter University’s Streatham Campus. Commemorating and named after the acclaimed British filmmaker Bill Douglas, the museum’s core collection is the moving image memorabilia of around 50,000 artefacts amassed by Bill and his lifelong friend Peter Jewell over a 30 year period. The two galleries include the Lower Gallery exploring the development of pre-cinema visual culture up to 1910 and the Upper Gallery which celebrates cinema from 1910 to the present. Entry is free and an eclectic mix of items relating to film and visual media are on display including shadow puppets, Shirley Temple dolls, Marilyn Monroe postcards and a vast range of movie publicity material. Exeter’s cinema museum is open daily. Weekday tours are also available by prior arrangement
Art at The Phoenix & Spacex
The Exeter Phoenix in the heart of the city centre is a multi-arts venue offering an outstanding programme of theatre, music, film and digital media. An aesthetically pleasing venue and one of Exeter’s main contemporary art spaces, the Phoenix features a stylish cafe bar and meeting and conference rooms, edit suites, a Media Centre and a large auditorium all available to hire. Performances and activities are across many genres, from dance, film and live art to hip hop, drum ‘n’ bass and reggae. Contemporary art exhibitions feature in the on-site galleries.
Spacex in the city centre, which began as an artist’s cooperative in 1974, is today a leading contemporary art gallery in the UK. The venue features exciting new commissions and changing exhibitions in galleries which span genres as diverse as film and video, painting, sculpture, performance and installation . Much of their work takes place elsewhere – the core to approach is collaboration and encouraging public participation.