Museums in Cornwall are places where the past comes to life, where stories are told and treasures are uncovered. From mining heritage to maritime heritage there’s lots of local history to explore. Many of Cornwall’s towns and villages also house small and unique museums which explore a bygone era and celebrate local histories. Below are just a few ideas on some to visit in 2014 and you can search our full Museums in Cornwall listings for a comprehensive guide.
National Maritime Museum Cornwall – Falmouth
National Maritime Museum Cornwall has 15 galleries over five floors, beautifully illustrating the past, present and future of this island nations.
Explore the stories of the people who used these vessels and the adventures they had in them, ascend the 100ft Look Out tower and see Falmouth’s famous harbour from the skies, before descending into the Tidal Zone to appreciate one of only three natural underwater galleries in the world.
With hands-on activities, talks, lectures, workshops, rotating events and exhibitions, there’s so much happening, so don’t miss your chance for a visit.
Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden – St Ives
For a well and truly unique experience head to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden with it’s remarkable insight into the world and outlook of one of Britain’s most important twentieth century artists.
The former home, studio and garden of the artist, showcases bronze, stone and wood sculptures from 1949 – 1975 along with paintings and drawings.
The museum is run by the famous Tate Gallery which is situated just next door holding a collection of British art from 1500 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art.
Royal Cornwall Museum – Truro
The Royal Cornwall Museum is a wonderful place to find out about Cornwall, its history and its cultural heritage. Discover Cornwall’s unique culture from the ancient past to the present day as well as artefacts from Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilisation including an unwrapped Egyptian mummy.
Explore magnificent minerals, archaeology and natural history along with an impressive collection of Cornish art and British decorative art. With a busy schedule of activities, talks and lectures throughout the year along with exciting exhibitions there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Penlee House Gallery & Museum – Newlyn
Specialising in West Cornwall’s rich cultural heritage, Penlee is the home to the largest collection of Newlyn School paintings and museum artefacts covering 6000 years of the area’s history. The converted Victorian villa is set in an attractive park, complete with children’s play area.
A changing programme of exhibitions always incorporates selected works from the collection, but there is no permanent display so if there is something that you specifically want to see, it’s worth checking what’s on display before setting out.
When you’re feeling a little peckish head to Penlee’s delightful café, The Orangery, with it’s sun-bathed terrace overlooking the park.
Porthcurno Telegraph Museum – Porthcurno
Porthcurno has a unique place in history; it is where the undersea telegraph cables that linked Britain with every corner of the world came ashore. Sometimes called the ‘home of the Victorian internet’ this beautiful Cornish cove also played a vital role through wartime. The museum offers interactive exhibits, live demonstrations and family friendly activities including things to make and take home. Don’t miss the free sculpture gardens and the famous cable hut on Porthcurno’s beautiful beach.
Refresh yourself with a cup of tea or coffee, or a delicious ice creams from the museums beautiful gift shop. There’s also plenty of outdoor seating for picnics and for letting off steam!
Falmouth Art Gallery – Falmouth
Situated above the library this award winning gallery is loved by locals of all ages. The gallery has gained a national reputation for providing innovative family and community workshops winning The Guardian Kids in Museums Award. The gallery is home to an impressive collection of masterpieces by Henry Scott Tuke, Charles Napier Hemy and contemporary artists; a collection that includes work by Eve Arnold, Lee Miller and Ian Stern. It is also home to The Surrealists in Cornwall Collection and The Children’s Illustration Archive.
Wheal Martyn Museum – St Austell
Visit the UK’s only China Clay Museum and Country Park where visitors can discover how Cornwall’s largest mining industry changed the world and the uses of China clay in our everyday lives.
As well as the historic buildings the museums owns and looks after a large collection of items associated with the china clay industry. This incorporates machinery and vintage vehicles, social history objects, tools, minerals and framed art works. There is also a large archive of related material, including documentary, photographic and films.
Visitors to the site are guided by marked trails, either following the ‘historic’ trail, which explores the historic buildings at the core of the site, or the ‘nature’ trail, which cover the rest of the 26 acre site.
Geevor Tin Mine – Pendeen
Geevor Tin Mine, is an award wining museum situated in Pendeen on the dramatic Cornish coastline. It is now one of the largest preserved mine sites in the country and a Cornish Mining World Heritage Site.
More than just a mine and a museum, here you can experience an 18th century underground tour, get hands – on in the interactive Hard Rock museum, explore the abandoned buildings, walk the dramatic coastline and get stuck in to plenty of family activities and events all year round.