Cambridge has historically been an academic hub, due for the most part to the prestigious university at its heart. One way this academia is visible here is through the many different museums that we have here. In this month’s blog, I’ll be taking you through my top 5 museums in Cambridge, and why they’re great for a day out.
1. The Fitzwilliam Museum
Affectionately known as ‘The Fitz’ to all who live here, The Fitzwilliam is probably Cambridge’s most well-known museum. They house a world-renowned collection of over half a million works of art, paintings and historical artefacts. Its collection includes Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman objects right through to the modern art of the present day. It also houses Asian art, medieval illuminated manuscripts and pottery, porcelain and medieval coins. The museum is known internationally for its high standards, in terms of its collections and exhibitions, its research, its curation and its fine-art conservation work. If what’s inside the building doesn’t tempt you, the building is a stunning neo-classical design by George Basevi. With its grand pillars, and the 4 stone lions that are positioned at the museum’s steps, it entices people inside to learn about its history. The Fitzwilliam Museum is free to visit.
2. Museum of Zoology
One of the most popular museums for tourists who come to Cambridge, the University’s Museum of Zoology houses one of the most impressive collections of animal kingdom specimens in Britain. The museum welcomes 75,000 visitors every year, and for good reason – their collections are some of the best and biggest in the world, often used for academic study. An especially exciting fact about this museum is that it includes specimens discovered by world-famous scientists including Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. No two visits to the museum are likely to be the same – changing exhibitions mean that you can learn something new every time you go. Most striking to many visitors is the ‘Whale Hall’, the entranceway to the museum that holds the 21-metre-long Fin Whale skeleton. Great for exciting children about science and nature, but a special experience for enthusiasts of all ages, the museum is a must the next time you’re in Cambridge! It’s free to visit.
3. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Also known as the ‘MAA’, this intriguing museum sits just across the street from the Museum of Zoology. This makes them a great duo of museums to visit on the same day, or if you only have a short time in Cambridge. Contrastingly to the Museum of Zoology, which is all about the history of the animal kingdom, the MAA’s collections are all based around almost 2 million years of human history that span all 6 inhabited continents. They want to make it known though, that this is no museum only about the past – it is through the collections that we can learn more about contemporary life all over the world today. The museum collaborates with indigenous communities to improve its collection and the information that they share with the public. Some of the must-see artefacts in the museum include its oldest object – a 1.8-million-year-old stone tool from Olduvai Gorge, as well as a towering Totem Pole from Moresby Island in British Columbia. The MAA is also free to enter.
4. The Museum of Cambridge
The history of Cambridge itself extends beyond that of the university, and this is where the Museum of Cambridge comes in. Known as The Cambridge and County Folk Museum for over 70 years, the museum is housed in a 17th Century former coaching inn. Their collections focus on everyday life in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire spanning over 300 years. The museum describes itself as a ‘social history hub’ that contains 20,000 objects from vacuum cleaners to folklore objects. Young children will enjoy the ‘playroom’ at the very top of the building, full of both modern and antique toys. An adult pass to the museum is £6, concession passes are £4 and children aged 12 and under go free when accompanied by an adult.
5. Centre for Computing History
Newer on the scene is the Centre for Computing History, a few minutes’ drive out of the town centre. More than just a museum, they host exhibitions, workshops and other activities and events. Even just a normal visit is super interactive and fun for children and adults alike. It’s impossible to imagine a world where we don’t have computers or the internet, and the centre takes you right back to the very start and looks at how we got here. The collection is over 24,000 items which include vintage computers, memorabilia, mobile phones, games consoles and calculators. There’s even the option to play on retro computer games! The entry fee is £9 for adults and £6 for children aged 5 to 16. Children under 5 enter free. There is also the option of a family ticket for £26 for up to 2 adults and 2 children.
With the UK getting ready to welcome visitors again very soon, we hope that you will join us in Cambridge and take the opportunity to check out some of these fantastic museums in your free time. Let us know in the comments which of the museums you’ve already been to and what you thought, and also, leave a comment if there are any museums you think we should have included on our list.
Allegra Goodwin, Student Experience Manager