In pictures: How your support is making a difference at Plymouth’s new museum and art gallery

Published 2 December 2021

Take a peek inside The Box, Plymouth’s major new museum, art gallery and archive, and discover how your support is helping them to create amazing experiences for all ages.

Combining local history and contemporary art on the South West coast, Plymouth’s new cultural space The Box opened in September 2020, bringing some much-anticipated cheer during a difficult year.

This striking-looking venue near the sea has a series of exciting galleries, exhibition spaces and even an ‘archive in the sky’ – and it was recently shortlisted for a Family Friendly Museum Award.

In 2020, urgent funding made possible by Art Fund members and donors helped The Box to keep their interactive exhibits safe for visitors by supplying a stylus for use with touch screens. Your support has also helped them to acquire some intriguing works of art for their collection, including a rare example of studio pottery by one of the Martin Brothers – an anthropomorphic crab, who you'll meet below – and contemporary artist Eva Grubinger's gigantic sculpture of a ship's fender, which resonates with Plymouth's maritime history.

We went along recently to explore and give you a look inside. If you haven’t already visited, why not plan a trip for 2022? The Box hosts the final leg of the British Art Show at the end of the year (8 October – 23 December 2022).

Art Fund has been able able to support The Box thanks to the generosity of our members and donors. Thank you for making a difference.

The Box's collections span everything from natural and maritime history to photography and moving image. One of the permanent galleries, 100 Journeys, takes a look at journeys that started in Plymouth which changed the world.

An animated globe showing these routes sits at the centre of the gallery, and in the same space, until 6 March 2022, visitors can see six portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery of some of the key figures who made these journeys, including Charles Darwin.

A popular exhibit is Mildred, a life-size woolly mammoth, who stands among thousands of natural history specimens which show the biodiversity of our planet – as well as the threats it faces.

The Box's brilliant work with families and communities has helped to earn them a recent nomination for a Family Friendly Museum Award.

Here at Art Fund we're currently running a fundraising campaign to raise £1 million to help more museums provide these kinds of creative opportunities for children, schools and young people – why not take a look and discover how you can help #EnergiseYoungMinds?

Elsewhere in the galleries, visitors can encounter another rather curious-looking creature: a grinning crab (pictured above) made by Robert Wallace Martin, one of three brothers working in the late 19th century known as the Martin Brothers, considered the first ‘art potters’ of Britain.

One of Martin’s ‘grotesques’, it’s his earliest, largest surviving sculpture and demonstrates the Victorian era’s fascination with natural history and the macabre. It joined The Box’s popular collection of Martinware in early 2020 with support from Art Fund, and adds an eccentric touch to the natural history displays.

In 2020 we were able to help The Box respond to some of the challenges of the pandemic with a Respond and Reimagine grant, made possible by Art Fund's members and donors. Thank you for supporting museums on the road to recovery.

Art Fund is currently fundraising to raise £1 million for museum projects that inspire young people. Watch our film to find out more.

All photos © Janie Airey / Art Fund 2021

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