A very Catholic collection. The museum was originally opened as an art gallery and library in 1874, with the library occupying the ground floor and the art gallery on the first floor. The building was enlarged in 1893. As one of the first purpose built free museums to open outside of London in 1874, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery houses a rich and fascinating collection covering fine art, decorative art, Egyptology, coins, manuscripts, natural history, social history and South Asia. With over 1000 Japanese prints, 5000 examples of coins and money, 500 books and manuscripts and the largest icon collection outside London, you certainly won’t be short of things to see. The museum tells the history of the town from its earliest roots through to the great industrial era. Showing the history of the wealthy elite, the common worker, the famous and infamous, the galleries have something for everyone. The galleries are the ‘Cottontown’ Gallery which looks at the industrial history of the town, the ‘Skill and Labour’ gallery which focuses on the social history of the town after 1750 and the ‘Early History Gallery’ which looks at the history of Blackburn from the Iron Age until the 1750’s. Bequeathed to the museum by local rope maker R.E Hart, the manuscript and book collection, which is internationally regarded, is Hart’s attempt at documenting the history of the written word. Highlights include the Psalters and Books of Hours which are permanently displayed. His collection also includes some of the earliest printed books by William Caxton and a page from the Gutenberg bible. Those with a taste for Arts and Crafts can see books made by William Morris’ Kelmscott Press including his beautiful Canterbury Tales. The coins donated as part of the Hart collection, numbering almost 8000, are a representation of coins from the history of Britain, a history of Rome and the various city-states in Ancient Greece. The Highlight of the collection is the ‘Leges Aureus’, a gold coin from the reign of Octavian (later to become Augustus) of which there are only two in the world.
Icons are religious works of art, most commonly a painting on board. They form part of Orthodox Christian worship and are used at home for private prayer. The icons here date from the 1300s to the late 1800s and were made in Russia, Greece and Eastern Cypress. Icons are believed to have protective and healing qualities. Inner meanings are conveyed by symbolism and the colours used. Icons show three types of representations – the image of the mother and son, images of Christ and of the Saints. At Blackburn museum there are examples of each kind. Blackburn Museum holds pottery including tea wares and East Asian ceramics. Famous potteries such as Royal Lancastrian and Spode are represented in the collection. On display are ceramics associated with tea drinking and the growth in its popularity since the 1700s. There are a number of local commemorative ceramics marking key national and local events including the Blackburn wage dispute in 1878. With a rich history in the production of cotton, Blackburn Museum holds examples of flat textiles and costume such as souvenir handkerchiefs from the First World War and examples of women’s dress spanning the 1800s to the 1960s. On permanent display are some uniforms including a Lancashire Constabulary ‘Peelers’ uniform from 1844. There is a mummy in the Egyptology gallery. The museum is happy to accommodate group visits. These can either be self-led, as part of a school group visit or as a guided tour. A guided tour lasts approximately one hour and can include tea/coffee. For guided tour charges or further information on any of these options please contact the museum. There is full disabled access.
Location : Museum St, Blackburn BB1 7AJ.
Transport: Blackburn (National Rail). Bus routes 8, 9, 15, 25 and 59 stop nearby.
Opening Times: Wednesday to Saturday 12:00 to 16:45
Tel: 01254 667130