Founded in 1868 as a memorial to Prince Albert, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery is Exeter’s largest and prominent museum and art gallery. Also known locally under its abbreviated name, RAMM, it is a popular attraction for those looking to experience local history, science, culture, and the arts in wonderful gothic-revival surroundings.
Entry is free for all visitors. The museum is located on Exeter Street and is normally open 10am to 5pm every day, except Mondays and bank holidays.
The museum is housed in a Gothic Revival building of local New Red Sandstone that has undergone several extensions during its history; most recently, the museum was re-opened on 15 December 2011 after an extensive redevelopment lasting four years.
The museum has had a great influence in Exeter and the wider county of Devon. It was the birthplace for much of Exeter’s cultural life – the university, central library and college of art all had their origins in this institution. It provided an integrated museum, art gallery, free library, reading room, school of art and school of engineering advocated by Prince Albert.
The city library eventually moved out of Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery in 1930. The school of science ultimately developed into the University of Exeter and the school of art became what is now the University of Plymouth’s Faculty of Art and Education, formerly Exeter College of Art and Design. Over time the RAMM gradually expanded to fill the whole building.
The Memorial Museum and Art Gallery holds significant and diverse collections in areas such as zoology, anthropology, fine art, local and overseas archaeology, and geology. Altogether the museum holds over one million objects, only a small percentage of which is on display to the public at any one time.
Four major types of collection are represented: antiquities, art, natural history and world cultures. The world cultures collections are designated as being of national and international significance by the UK government.
The art collection comprises over 7,000 objects including paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture, representing important British artists in the south west. Significant artists represented in the collection include Gainsborough, Reynolds, Pompeo Batoni, Walter Sickert, Barbara Hepworth, John Nash, Edward Burra, David Bomberg and Patrick Heron.
The museum’s zoology collection includes specimens of invertebrates and mammals from across the world. Percy Sladen’s collection of echinoderms is held by the museum and considered the most important of its kind outside of any national collection.
The costume and textiles collection of the museum is also acknowledged as considerable. Due to the delicate nature of these materials, the collection is not on permanent display.
Since reopening, RAMM has won over a dozen awards for its collections, including “Museum of the Year” by The Art Fund charity in 2012.
At the end of every July, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum holds a plant-orientated lecture in memory of Sir Harry Veitch.