Brighton Museum and Art Galleries

By: Susan Ashby

Brighton has many great museums that narrate Brighton’s illustrious past in vivid detail, covering everything from British birds to the mechanics of catching fish, and from toy railways to steam engines. Here’s an overview of the many remarkable museums in Brighton.

(1) Booth Museum of Natural History
The Booth Museum of Natural History covers three centuries of history and is filled with over half a million fascinating objects, including hundreds of British birds that are depicted in their natural settings. There are also a wide array of insects, the skeleton of a killer whale and the pre-historic bones of a dinosaur.  In addition, the museum undertakes several special exhibits all year-round.

(2) Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
The Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is the place to visit for the lowdown on Brighton’s local history. It features magnificent collections reflecting the city’s historical and contemporary industries. By virtue of a recent £10 million redevelopment, the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery now boasts state-of-the-art facilities and breath-taking attractions, including an art gallery. The museum also has a gift shop and cafe. The museum also features a number of art galleries on world art, fashion and style, and 20th century art and design. The permanent galleries are complemented by the many temporary art exhibits held in the grounds all year long.

(3) Brighton Fishing Museum
As the City on the Sea, Brighton has a natural and life-long connection to the local fishing industry. The Brighton Fishing Museum captures this connection in stunning detail and with a strong sense of nostalgia. The exhibit is set on arches that are still used by fishermen. Every May, the Brighton Fishing Museum also hosts the Mackerel Fair and Blessing of the Nets.
(4) British Engineerium – Museum of Steam and Mechanical Antiquities
Located in Hove, the British Engineerium – Museum of Steam and Mechanical Antiquities is another museum devoted to the city’s industry. Fittingly, the museum occupies a restored Victorian steam water-pumping station and the craftsman’s tools, gleaming models and full-size steam engines look right at home. There are also a number of lawnmowers, motorcycles and other gadgets on display. One of the most popular items here is the Giant’s Tool Box which children just love to explore and play in. There’s also a lovely outdoor garden for picnicking.

(5) Hove Museum & Art Gallery
The Hove Museum & Art Gallery is a delight for the young and the young at heart. Its main feature is an interactive toy gallery, complete with its own wizard’s attic and a unique bedroom that is caught between two time periods: half of it in the modern world and the other half in Victorian times. There is also a new film gallery that celebrates Hove’s role in the birth of cinema in the UK with exhibits on the pioneering works of Hove’s early filmmakers from the 1890s and 1900s. The gallery is also filled with cameras, magic lanterns and optical toys that are still in good working order. In addition, there is a painting gallery that displays magnificent works of fine art as well as two craft galleries that exhibit the South East Arts Craft Collection.

(6) Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Toy and scale model lovers will thoroughly enjoy the Brighton Toy and Model Museum on Trafalgar Street. Its displays are impressive and boast great detail, with thousands of dolls, teddy bears, soldiers, buses, ships and airplanes as well as one of the very best vintage ‘O’ model railway layouts one is likely to find anywhere.

(7) National Working Museum of Penny Slot Machines
A short walk away is the National Working Museum of Penny Slot Machines, the only vintage penny arcade in the UK. It features over 50 old slot machines which were built between 1895 to 1945. One of the most popular games here is “What The Butler Saw” as well as some old-time strength testers and talking mechanical fortune tellers. To play, visitors have to purchase old pennies from the museum’s vintage booth.

(8) Preston Manor
Built in 1738, Preston Manor is an old manor which seems to have been untouched by time. They say things are more or less the way they seemed over two centuries ago and that this old structure can actually give guests a taste of what life was like during those long-gone days. The manor has four floors in all and 20 rooms. The servants’ quarters at the basement and the children’s nursery on the upper floor have been superbly renovated.

Other notable art galleries in the city include Fabrica, an interactive art gallery, and Gallery 73, which specializes in displaying the works of up and coming young artists. There are also excellent photo exhibits at the Brighton Media Centre and the Contact Gallery.


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