Five museums to discover with a Student Art Pass
Look beyond the blockbuster venues with our round-up of five smaller museums offering rare treats.
With free or reduced-price entry to 240 museums and galleries across the UK, why not use your Student Art Pass to seek out some of the lesser-known gems?
We’ve picked out five museums you might not have come across that are sure to offer something intriguing.
- Greater London
Tucked away in a pretty corner of Bloomsbury, the Foundling Museum tells the story of the UK’s first children’s charity and the first public art gallery. Set up in 1739 after years of campaigning by the sea captain Thomas Coram, the Foundling Hospital offered shelter to abandoned children (and continues now as the charity Coram). It won the support of the artist William Hogarth and composer Friedrich Handel who staged exhibitions and recitals to raise money for the project, creating a link between the arts and philanthropy which still thrives today.
If you fancied immersing yourself in Americana, an English manor house nestled in the Somerset countryside might not be the first place you’d look. But jump on the free shuttle bus from the centre of Bath, and you’ll find yourself at the only museum outside the US to showcase the decorative arts of America. It opened in 1961 to promote Anglo-American understanding and traces the US’s rich and varied heritage. As well as individual objects, complete sections of panelling and flooring were shipped over to recreate entire period rooms, making the spacious interiors of Claverton Manor the perfect venue.
Aiming to inspire people of all ages to become engaged citizens, this museum in the old County Gaol takes you on a lively journey through the history of justice, explaining how the law affects us all. You can also take a tour of the underground caves – the biggest cave network in the UK – where people have lived, worked and hidden themselves for various reasons since the Dark Ages. You may even meet a ghost or two.
- Greater Manchester
This museum is worth visiting to see the building alone. A former Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in the Moorish style and the oldest surviving synagogue in the city, it has been completely restored in all its Victorian splendour, including exquisite stained-glass windows. Inside, the museum tells the fascinating and varied stories of Jewish life in Manchester since the 18th century through objects, documents and oral histories.
The collections of the Surgeons’ Hall Museums are built around a search for ‘natural and artificial curiosities’ that has been going on since 1699. Originally used for teaching medicine, the jaw-dropping and sometimes stomach-churning displays explore in vivid detail Edinburgh’s contribution to surgical science. They range from the horrors of early dentistry to the discovery of anaesthetics, from musket balls still embedded in flesh to the death masks of bodysnatchers. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s an ‘interactive’ dissection table in the Anatomy Theatre.