Herbert Art Gallery and Museum
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Herbert Art Gallery & Museum from Cathedral Square
|Location||Jordan Well, Coventry, England|
|Visitors||>1 million between 2008 and 2011|
|Curator||Martin Roberts, Huw Jones, Ali Wells|
|Public transit access||Pool Meadow Bus Station|
The museum is named after Sir Alfred Herbert, a Coventry industrialist and philanthropist whose gifts enabled the original building to be opened in 1960. Building began in 1939, with an interruption by the Second World War, and the Herbert opened in 1960. In 2008, it reopened after a £14 million refurbishment.
The Herbert is run by Culture Coventry, a registered charity, and admission is free. It derives financial support from donations, sales at the museum shop, and hiring the buildings out. In 2010, the museum and gallery received more than 300,000 visitors, making it one of the most popular free tourist attractions in the West Midlands.
Benedictine Museum and foundation: Pre-war
Museums in Coventry before the Herbert included the museum of the Coventry City Guild and the Benedictine Museum, opened by J. B. Shelton in the 1930s. However, Coventry City Council's collection of art treasures and museum pieces were housed in various buildings and so the council acquired a half acre site over a number of years costing £35,375. In 1938 the philanthropist Sir Alfred Herbert donated £100,000 to the Corporation to erect a Gallery and Museum on the site. Plans were drawn up by the Leicester architect Albert Herbert, a cousin of Sir Alfred, and building began the following year.
The city's destruction during the Coventry Blitz meant construction was suspended with only the basement completed. City architect Donald Gibson's radical rebuilding plan for Coventry city centre became War time propaganda for the post-war reconstruction of Britain. But, Post-war economies required Gibson to concentrate on a building programme for the suburbs. Completion of the first building under his plan was delayed until 1953.
New plans for the museum were drawn up in 1952 By the Leicester architects, Albert Herbert & Son, and in May 1954 the foundation stone was laid by Herbert, who also donated a further £100,000 to the project. Herbert died in May 1957, and the museum and art gallery that bears his name was opened on 9 March 1960 by his third wife Lady Herbert.
The first phase of a two-phase refurbishment was completed in 2005 with £3 million of funds from Coventry City Council, Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund. During the refurbishment, it was considered that a painting by 17th-century artist Luca Giordano was too large and fragile to be moved. Instead the 3.02 by 5.83 metres (9.9 by 19.1 ft) canvas, which has been with The Herbert since the 1960s and described as one of the museum's most prized paintings, was boarded up in 2005 and uncovered three years later in time for the opening.
In early 2008, the second phase was completed at a cost of £14 million. A new entrance on Bayley Lane was provided, along with a 500 sq metre glass-covered court extension. The extended buildings include a new cafe area, education, training, creative media and arts information facilities, additional gallery spaces for temporary exhibitions, and facilities for conservation work and to preserve the city records and archive.
The Herbert is part of Culture Coventry, which also manages three additional local heritage sites: Coventry Transport Museum, the Priory Visitor Centre for the medieval remains of Coventry's first cathedral, and the Lunt Roman Fort situated three miles outside Coventry at Baginton.
The museum won the Guardian Family Friendly Award 2010. The same year, the gallery was shortlisted for the Art Fund Prize in recognition of its outstanding work in engaging new and diverse audiences.
In October 2015, it was announced that the Herbert might be permanently closed as a result of financial cuts from the Coventry Council. The museum is exploring the option of charging for entry, while noting that this could decrease its visitor numbers by a third.
Permanent gallery spaces include Sculpture, Old Masters paintings, Art Since 1900, local history and Elements (Natural History).
The museum's notable collections include a costume collection dating from around 1800 to date, with the emphasis on 19th century women's wear. The museum is now concentrating on the acquisition of more modern clothes and items from different ethnic communities in Coventry.
Another collection represents the city's history as a centre for ribbon making, which includes over 250 sample books, as well as woven Stevengraphs – a form of silk picture and bookmark, together with dyer's samples, documents, woven badges and related machinery.
In 2011, the museum raised £12,000 to buy The Coventry Album, a collection of paintings by William Henry Brooke in 1819. The album is one of the most important collection of historic pictures of Coventry.
Other heritage sites
Culture Coventry also administers three other local heritage sites:
- Coventry Transport Museum is a motor museum, located in Coventry City Centre, England. It houses a collection of British-made road transport. It is located in Coventry because the city was previously the centre of the British car industry. There are more than 240 cars and commercial vehicles, 100 motorcycles, 200 bicycles.
- The Lunt Roman Fort is located in Baginton, about 3 miles from Coventry city centre, where there is a modern partial reconstruction of the fort that was established there in AD 60.
- The Priory Visitor Centre is located in Priory Row, Coventry city centre. This boasts the remains of medieval buildings from Coventry's first cathedral.
The Coventry History Centre is housed in The Herbert. Made up of what was the Coventry archives and Coventry local history, it houses the largest collection of records related to Coventry and its history.
Temporary exhibitions and special projects
In 2005, The Herbert hosted a theatre project for children, showing them what it would have been like to be evacuees in the 1940s. The event won two awards, one for excellence in the field of heritage and the other for engaging children with history.
There are four temporary exhibition spaces, and the temporary exhibition programme includes exhibition from national and international galleries such as The British Museum, V&A, Southbank Centre and Natural History Museum. Self-created exhibitions also explore local themes and social history.
In 2010, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the museum's opening, the Herbert held several events throughout the year. In March more than 1,000 people attended a special event where ten objects, including a 16th-century tapestry and Shakespeare's ring, illustrating the history of Warwickshire, were put on display.
- "We Welcome Our Millionth Visitor Through Our Doors". Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
- "Herbert Art Gallery & Museum welcomes its millionth visitor". BBC News Online. BBC. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- "Herbert earns top attraction tag as landmark visit looms". Coventry Observer. 26 August 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
- Sir A. Herbert's Gift To Coventry, The Times, 26 October 1938
- McCarthy, James (2 September 2005). "Bright New Look For The Herbert; First Phase Of City Art Gallery Revealed". Coventry Evening Telegraph.
- Andrew Saint, ‘Gibson, Sir Donald Edward Evelyn (1908–1991)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- "Painting Left Insitu Survives The Herbert's Building Works Intact". Culture24. 18 July 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
- "Coventry Herbert Museum and Art Gallery wins Guardian Family Friendly Award 2010". Culture24. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
- "Final countdown for shortlisted four as voting draws to a close in £100,000 Art Fund Prize race". Culture24. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
- ""Stunning" Ulster Museum wins Art Fund Prize 2010". Culture24. 1 July 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
- "Herbert Art Gallery faces permanent closure in wake of council cuts". Coventry Telegraph. 23 October 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
- "Costume". Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
- "Ribbon Weaving". Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
- Dodge, Jenny (2007). Silken Weave – A history of Ribbon Making in Coventry from 1700 to 1860 (2 ed.). Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. ISBN 978-0-9541185-5-6.
- "Collecting Cultures – HLF Announces Grants For Acquisitions". Culture24. 5 June 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
- Cane 2010, p. 23
- "Herbert Art Gallery and Museum asks public to help display William Brooke's Coventry Album". Culture24. 9 August 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- "Herbert Art Gallery Coventry – History Centre". The Historical Association. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- "History Centre Collections". Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Tappenden, Roslyn (26 May 2005). "Herbert Museum's Kids In The Blitz Project Is A Winner!". Culture24. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
- Prudames, David (16 June 2005). "Kids In The Blitz & A Stately Rap – Roots & Wings Winners Revealed". Culture24. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
- "Rare Watercolours And Drawings Visit Coventry's Herbert". Culture24. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- Cane 2010, pp. 6–7
- Cane 2010, pp. 17–18
- Cane, Simon (June 2010). "Renaissance West Midlands: Collections" (PDF). Museums, Libraries & Archives.
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