From prehistoric times to the present day, explore stories about Bristol and the world through the city’s objects, art and people.

Delftware: Bristol’s Collection

The project aimed to raise the profile of Bristol’s important collection of delftware. At over 2,000 pieces, it’s one of the largest in the UK. What is delftware? In Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands delftware was the name given to tin-glazed earthenware. This type of pottery is also known elsewhere as maiolica (Italy) and faience […]

Bristol Museum’s Romany wagon and the power of museum objects

When the wagon, known as a vardo, was bought by the museum in 1953 it was displayed outside Blaise Museum, at that time a folk museum. It came to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in 1957. We didn’t have any information about original owners, just the people from 1950 onwards. Thanks to recent information, we now understand […]

Bristol and the Transatlantic Traffic in Enslaved Africans

What was the transatlantic traffic in enslaved Africans? Who benefitted from it? What was Bristol’s involvement and what are its legacies today? What was the transatlantic traffic in enslaved Africans? The slave trade was part of the network of trade which existed between Britain, West Africa and the Caribbean. This trade also serviced Virginia and […]

Migration timeline: joining and leaving Bristol

From ancient Roman settlements to today’s Syrian resettlements, people have been making new homes beside the Avon for thousands of years. Many have also left Bristol, crossing vast oceans to seek fortune and freedom in faraway lands. Explore the timeline to find out key migration events to and from Bristol.

Bristol’s Black History

When did Bristol’s Black history first begin? We may never know, but the earliest records show a ‘blacke moore’ gardener (or maybe watchman or security guard) living and working in the city in the 1560s. Bristol later wrote itself indelibly into African history by becoming one of the major players in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. At least […]

Women’s Suffrage

In the 19th century women weren’t allowed to vote. Organised suffragist campaigns began to appear in 1866 and campaigns continued for many years, with some members becoming more militant when their views were ignored.

Dr Richard Smith Junior and the Horwood Book

The story behind the book is one of controversy and Dr Richard Smiths’s fascination for collecting macabre death memorabilia. Dr Richard Smith Junior Dr Richard Smith (1772-1843) was a surgeon at Bristol Infirmary from 1796 until his death. Amongst other things, he is known for his anatomisation of executed criminals. In April 1802 he dissected […]

M Shed’s Working Exhibits

On most weekends, the working exhibits are brought to life for trips and visits by our fantastic team of volunteers. Head over to the what’s on listings to find out when the next dates are. Built by Stothert & Pitt in Bath, these four cranes – the biggest objects in the whole of our collections – are […]

Banksy and Bristol Museums

Banksy versus Bristol Museum In the summer of 2009 Bristol Museum & Art Gallery was taken over by an extraordinary exhibition of works by the infamous Bristol artist Banksy called Banksy versus Bristol Museum. Overnight the museum was transformed into a menagerie of Unnatural History – fishfingers swimming in a gold-fish bowl, hot-dogs and chicken nuggets. […]

Bristol’s music scene: The story of The Wild Bunch and Massive Attack

Massive Attack formed in 1988 from the remaining members of hip hop crew The Wild Bunch. The band comprised Robert Del Naja (Delge), Grant Marshall (Daddy G) and Andrew Vowles (Mushroom). Mushroom explains how the Massive Attack story started during his school days: “I was only 15, but Daddy G got me a membership card […]

The Bristol Dinosaur

The bones of the Bristol dinosaur, Thecodontosaurus antiquus, (or ‘Theco’ as he’s known at the museum) were discovered by quarrymen in 1834 in Triassic rocks just up the road from Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. Scientific research has revealed that herds of Thecodontosaurus roamed Bristol about 210 million years ago, when it was a landscape of small tropical islands. […]

The Ghosts of Redcliff

In his book Bristol As It Was: 1879-1874 (1), Reece Winstone gathered together nine photographs under the title A Walk Along Redcliff Street. He dated the images to 1875 and identified each view, but was unable to ascertain the photographer. Bristol Museum & Art Gallery owns seven of the series, all matte albumen paper prints taken from glass […]

Early Botany in Bristol and Jamaica

The oldest specimens we care for in the Natural History department are a collection of beautiful pressed plants collected by Dr Arthur Broughton, a local physician, in the 18th century. Composed of four volumes, these herbaria record plants collected from Bristol in the 1770s and Jamaica between 1780 and 1790. As a boy, Arthur studied […]

Australian Art

In the Bristol collections we have examples of some of the types of Aboriginal art from the more recent past, from the 1900’s to the present, as well as work made by Australians of European descent. Contemporary art in Australia today is created by artists from both traditions, using new techniques and materials, looking at […]

Chinese Ceramics of the (Yuan and) Ming Dynasty

The Ming dynasty (1368-1644) was one of the most stable and long-lasting dynasties of Chinese history. The Ming dynasty was founded by Han Chinese people, China’s main ethnic group, unlike the preceding Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) which was founded by Mongols, and the following Qing dynasty (1644-1911) which was founded by Manchus. Porcelain was invented in […]

Bristol Trade Unions

Trade unions were set up and exist to protect the pay, benefits, working conditions and status of workers through collective bargaining. They can help shape a more hopeful society. Our collections provide an insight into the history of Bristol trade unions and industrial action. You can also find more paper-based evidence in Bristol Archives (Ref.32080). […]

The Bristol Tapestry: A Stitch in Time

The Bristol Tapestry was made by a group of local stitchers in the 1970s. It depicts the history of Bristol. The story it tells reflects the time at which it was made.

Dr. Bashir Fazel

Dr. Bashir Fazel (born 1885) came to Bristol in 1925, from the undivided Punjab region of what is now split between Pakistan and India. It was then part of the British Raj (Empire); Doctors and medical professionals were required to help the British in their war efforts. Some of those who served in World War […]