Leeds City Museum

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Leeds City Museum
Leeds City Museum
Established1819; reopened 13 September 2008
LocationMillennium Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.
Coordinates53°48′06″N 1°32′50″W / 53.801617°N 1.547323°W / 53.801617; -1.547323Coordinates: 53°48′06″N 1°32′50″W / 53.801617°N 1.547323°W / 53.801617; -1.547323
TypeCollection (museum), Heritage centre
Public transit accessLeeds railway station, Leeds City bus station
WebsiteLeeds City Museum

Leeds City Museum, originally established in 1819, reopened on 13 September 2008 in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It is housed in the former Mechanics' Institute built by Cuthbert Brodrick, in Cookridge Street (now Millennium Square), which has been redeveloped to a design by Austin-Smith:Lord architects and Buro Happold engineers. Gallery and exhibit design is provided by Redman Design. It one of nine sites in the Leeds Museums & Galleries group.

Admission to the museum is free of charge. Special exhibitions are hosted alongside a collection of displays from the Leeds Archive.


In 1819, a museum was established in Philosophical Hall, Bond Street, by the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, and in 1821 it opened to the public. In 1921, control of the museum was handed to the Corporation of Leeds which later became Leeds City Council. In 1862, Philosophical Hall was rebuilt in Park Row, where its stone portico can still be seen on the west side of the road.[1] In 1941, the museum building and artifacts were badly damaged by bombing. In 1965 the museum was closed, and a few exhibits removed to a couple of rooms in the city library in 1966. The oversized Leeds Tiger, the giant moose skeleton and the carved wooden cart took up much of the space. In 1999 the museum went into storage, though researchers and the public could view items by appointment. In 2000, the resource centre at Yeadon opened, under the same appointment-to-view arrangement. In 2001, Leeds City Council bid for National Lottery cash, and in 2004, it was awarded £19.5 million,[2] so in 2005, the Leeds Mechanics' Institute building began to be redesigned as Leeds City Museum, finally to reopen in 2008.[3]

The exhibits[edit]

While exhibits vary, they are mainly made up of exhibits from Leeds' history. The central hall has a large map of Leeds printed on the floor. There is also a scale model of the Quarry Hill flats. The exhibits are organised among several galleries.

The Leeds City Museum "man-eater" stuffed Indian tiger.

Life on Earth gallery[edit]

This is the natural history gallery.

The Leeds Tiger[edit]

This exhibit - so beloved of the Leeds populace that when the curators wanted to throw it away, the Yorkshire Post newspaper held a campaign to retain it - has a strange history. It was a tigerskin rug when presented to the Museum in the 19th century. Museum records give the impression that the tiger had been shot for spending too much time near a village in India. The pelt was then combined with one or more other tigerskins, and instead of being mounted properly it was stuffed with straw. For over a century it has sagged somewhat, as can be seen in the photograph. Meanwhile, the story of a tiger shot for its mere presence at the edge of a village became a legend of the killer of one man, then of two people, then the serial killer of forty. However the pelt may now be dangerous after all, in a sense, as the Victorians may have preserved it with arsenical soap.[4] Museum staff have considered remounting it properly to improve its appearance, but it was felt that that would destroy its character and historical identity as a Victorian artefact and as the centrepiece of the museum in the eyes of the citizens.[5]

Ancient Worlds gallery[edit]

Roman floor mosaic
Hellenistic Greek tomb door

Here are archaeological items from Leeds and around the world.

  • Roman floor mosaic ca 250 CE, depicting she-wolf with Romulus and Remus. This was discovered at Aldborough (Yorkshire), known to the Romans as Isurium Brigantum.
  • Hellenistic Greek tomb doors ca 250 BCE. These are carved in marble, in bas relief.
  • The Leeds Mummy. In the 1941 bombing raids, two other mummies were destroyed, but Nesyamun's 3000-year-old mummy survived. It is displayed in the current museum building, alongside a rather striking reconstruction of his face.[6]
  • Iron replica of Hellenistic Greek head of Aphrodite. This is a cast replica of the original 1st century BCE head in the British Museum. The original was discovered in 1872 at Satala (now Sadak) in north-eastern Turkey. The eyes were once inlaid with precious stones or paste. Apparently the top of the head was not designed to be empty, like a piece of modern art. It seems that the farmer found it when he hit the top of the head with his axe and damaged it.[7]

World View gallery[edit]

In 2014 this gallery began hosting a long-term exhibition called 'Voices of Asia',[8][9] which celebrates the sights, sounds and culture of Asian communities here in Leeds and around the world. The 'faith' element of the display regularly changes. From 2017, the focus was on Buddhism.[10]

Leeds Museums & Galleries has large collection of objects from around the world, and Voices of Asia displays just one aspect of the city's holdings. The Leeds African collections are also significant, especially the sculpture, masks and textiles. They are currently[when?] in the reserve collections at Leeds Discovery Centre, where you will also find good representations of North American beadwork, European folk items and the traditional arts of Oceania.[11]

Leeds Story gallery[edit]

The history of Leeds from prehistory to the modern day.

Special Exhibitions[edit]

On the third floor is a gallery space dedicated to a changing exhibition programme. One previous exhibition was 'Beavers to Weavers' looking at things created by creatures.[12]

Collectors Cabinet[edit]

The bronze Circe by Alfred Drury

Various collections appear here in rotation with a focus on the people behind the objects.

Former Curators[edit]


  1. ^ Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society: About the society
  2. ^ Heritage Lottery Fund: History in the Making, 22 September 2005
  3. ^ Yorkshirepost.co.uk article: Long-awaited new museum set to go down in city's history Chris Bond, 12 September 2008.
  4. ^ Chestofbooks.com webpage: Arsenical soap.
  5. ^ Information received 10 March 2009 verbally from museum curator, and in 2010 from the exhibit's label.
  6. ^ 24dash.com: Sting in the tale of Leeds mummy, by Hannah Wooderson, 3 September 2008. Archived 3 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Britishmuseum.org: Bronze head of a goddess, probably Aphrodite.
  8. ^ "Voices of Asia". Leeds City Council.
  9. ^ "Discover a world of Asian wonders behind Leeds museum's doors". Yorkshire Evening Post. 18 April 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Spotlight: the Voices of Asia". Religion in Public. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  11. ^ "World Cultures Collections". Leeds City Council. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Beavers to Weavers". Secret Lives of Objects. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  13. ^ Culture24: Leeds City Art Gallery Brings Victorian Statue In From The Cold 7 March 2008.[dead link]
  14. ^ A sculpture walk in Leeds.
  15. ^ BBC.co.uk: Moving Statues

External links[edit]