Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum


Queen's Street, Exeter


On your way into town via Queen Street, after walking past student-town staples like curry houses and Poundland, you'll find yourself face-to-face with a red-and-white brick building, with impressive pointed arches and stone columns. Though many visitors will keep walking, if you ascend the stairs, you'll find yourself in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, or RAMM--a free museum displaying a wide range of cultural artifacts, artworks, and scientific specimens that initially began in 1813 as the Devon and Exeter Institution. After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, a Devon MP who assisted in Albert's Great Exhibition of 1851 began a campaign to memorialize the Prince through an educational museum and gallery. Designed in a Gothic Revival style, the building finally opened its doors in 1869, and continued to expand and evolve into the twentieth century.



Named Museum of the Year in 2012, the museum has undergone an extensive redevelopment since the dawn of the new millenium, supported by Exeter's City Council and the National Lottery Fund. Though perhaps not as glamourous as museums in London, the RAMM offers an informative and engaging experience, dispelling the myth that Devon is devoid of culture--many of the RAMM's exhibition halls are dedicated to Devon art and history. Many of the pieces were acquired from private collections, and sought to focus on British artists inspired by their native land.

The fine art galleries offer an intimate look at daily life in Britain, and offer some local flavor:



The Fair Toxophilites, William Powell Frith, 1872.



Exeter as Seen from the Canal Basin, Arthur Shelley, 1886.

In fact, many of the RAMM's fine art galleries are dedicated to Exeter and Devon, with works depicting Exeter's city center, scenic quay, and landscapes beyond. In airy, light-filled galleries, the story of Devon comes alive through artworks old and new. Special exhibition galleries, located alongside permanent art collections, also explore themes as they relate to Devon culture. 






Mol's Coffee House, Exeter, Alan Richards, 1975. 

In addition to art, Exeter's RAMM displays artifacts from a variety of world cultures, often initially obtained from private collections. Cases of art from sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Oceania, among other regions, illuminate a global interest for Devon art collectors, as well as the far reach of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries.






On the ground floor, you'll find exhibitions dedicated to Devon's natural history and England's Jurassic Coast, as well as collections of artifacts from Devon history ranging from prehistory to the present, passing through important touchstones such as the wool industry and the Exeter Blitz of World War II.





At the rear 'garden' entrance, visitors can walk along the Roman Wall of Northernhay Gardens, experiencing a taste of Exeter's ancient history as a Roman settlement. With a vast collection of art and artifacts, Exeter's RAMM offers a fascinating cultural diversion for visitors of all ages. 


Exeter's RAMM is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10AM to 5PM, and is completely free to visit--all exhibitions are included. The museum also offers a cafe, shop, and activities for families. 



Parsons, Julien, and RAMM Curators. Collecting Stories: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery. London: Scala Publishers, 2007. Print.


Text © Deirdre Sheridan, 2016

Photos © Deirdre Sheridan, 2016