Hastings Museum and Art Gallery is a museum and art gallery located in, Hastings, East Sussex, England. The Museum was established over 125 years ago and has always offered local people and visitors to the town the opportunity to explore art, culture and history from around the world. The Museum's collections continue to grow and it now has around 97,000 objects of local history, natural sciences, fine & decorative arts, and world cultures. There is a gallery on early local history on display which tells the story of this area from prehistory to the Saxons. Local wildlife is displayed in dioramas of different local habitats, and you can discover our preshistoric past in their interactive Dinosaur gallery. A fine Native North American collection is displayed in three galleries, featuring the Plains and Sub-Arctic areas and the life of Hastings-born celebrity conservationist Grey Owl. The most spectacular part of the Museum is the magnificent Durbar Hall, constructed for the Colonial & Indian Exhibition in 1886. Donated in 1919 as part of the Brassey Collection, this amazing structure now contains our World Art displays, as well as being used for a range of events, including weddings & civil partnerships.
The Museum has a large Archaeological collection including around 2,500 flints and over 10,000 excavated artefacts. Many of these come from sites in Hastings and the surrounding area, and they give us a picture of human habitation locally from prehistory to the medieval period. There are also examples of excavated material from as far away as South Africa, Japan and South America. The Museum has a particularly fine collection of objects from ancient Cyprus, which were donated as part of the Brassey Collection. The Brasseys were an influential family in Hastings in the second half of the 19th century and early 20th centuries. They were very wealthy and lived in great style at their country houses, Beauport Park and Normanhurst Court, but they also had a strong sense of public duty and were closely involved with local politics and charitable causes. They donated a large portion of their impressive collection of world art objects, as well as the magnificent Durbar Hall, in 1919. The Museum also has an archive of press cuttings, political speeches and photographs.
Among the collection is a Burmese offering vessel. This offering vessel from the 19th century is in the shape of the sacred hamsa bird. It would have been used to make offering of betel nuts or food to the monks at a Buddhist monastery, and is made from gilded lacquered wood. The hamsa is often used in both the folk and Buddhist & Hindu art of Southeast Asia, especially in Myanmar. It is one of the many creatures referred to in the Jataka stories about the lives of the Buddha and is found on everyday items as well as sacred objects. There is a New Guinea helmet mask. The people of northern New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, honour the dead through Malagan ceremonies, which help the souls of the dead to pass into the spirit world. It is not a time for grief but a festival for honouring the dead. This helmet mask is made of wood, fibre and mud. It is decorated to represent the hairstyle worn by young men as a mark of bereavement, when it was partially shaved and coated with lime. The masks were decorated differently on each side to represent different characters during the ceremony.
Hastings Museum and Art Gallery has a fantastic collection from Native North America, through the collections of Colin Taylor, Edward Blackmore, Clare Sheridan and Randal & Beatrice Callander. The Museum currently has displays of objects from the Plains and Sub-Arctic areas. There is a This magnificent headdress which was worn by Iron Tail, a Sioux chief who toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. A beautifuil belt was given to Moreton Frewen of Brede (near Hastings) by Chief Sitting Bull on a visit to the Custer Battlefield in 1883. Frewen was the father of Clare Sheridan. Born into a wealthy, and cultured family, Clare Sheridan was brought up at Brede Place in East Sussex. In the 1950s, she lived for a while in Hastings Old Town. She was a well known writer and sculptor, and her bust of Winston Churchill, her first cousin, is in Hastings Town Hall. After the sudden death of her son in 1937, she went on a pilgrimage to Montana and Canada to find spiritual refreshment. She stayed with the Blackfoot Indians and was adopted into their tribe. She was given many items, which were passed to Edward Blackmore in the 1960s. They were donated to the Museum along with his own collection in 1982.
'GREY OWL WAS NOT A RED INDIAN - HE WAS A SUSSEX MAN!' This was the headline of the local paper shortly after the death of celebrated Canadian conservationist Grey Owl was announced. The shocking story that Grey Owl was in fact Archie Belaney, born in Hastings, was big news and the Museum has a gallery dedicated to his story, including a reconstruction of his cabin, copies of his books, an audio-visual presentation of his amazing story and objects from the area that he made his new home. The Museum has around 1,400 fossils of plants and animals, mostly from the local area. The most frequently found dinosaur remains in Sussex are those of the Iguanodon, which lived during the Lower Cretaceous period, between 125 - 110 million years ago. The Hastings Rarities Affair. In August 1962, the ornithological journal ‘British Birds’ published two articles devoted to the examination of one topic. The authors, Max Nicholson and James Ferguson-Lees, made clear their intention in the accompanying editorial. This was to prove, by statistical analysis and comparison of records, that many, if not all, of the rare birds recorded from the Hastings area, in the period 1890 – 1930, were the result of a deliberate deception. Within a short time of the publication of the articles, dramatic newspaper headlines were speaking of the ‘Hastings Rarities Fraud’, and, for some time afterwards, the issue assumed almost national importance.
Around two-thirds of Hastings Museum & Art Gallery's collections are made up of archives, local & social history items. These include maps, photographs, documents & ephemera, antique books, costume & textiles and general social history objects. These give a detailed historical picture of the development of the town over the last 500 years. They cover such subjects as brewing and smuggling and there is a great collection of figureheads. John Logie Baird arrived in Hastings early in 1923 to convalesce from a bad bout of ill health. Over the following 18 months he carried out experiments that led in 1925 to the transmission of the first true television image, the painted wooden head of Stooky Bill at Baird's workshop in Frith Street, Soho. However it was in Hastings that he produced the first shadowy outline of an object, the shape of a Maltese Cross in his lodgings at Linton Crescent. John Logie Baird is, of course, featured in 'The Story of Hastings in 66 Objects'. Hastings Museum also has archives relating to this important period in its reserve collections, as well as other pieces relating to early television history. Robert Tressell wrote "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" in Hastings between 1906 & 1910. Much of the book is based on his experiences of working in the town as a signwriter and decorator. Tressell was the pen name of Robert Noonan who was born in Dublin in 1870. He was brought up in Ireland and England but left to make a new life in South Africa where his daughter, Kathleen was born in 1892. He returned to England at the outbreak of the Boer War in 1901, and settled in Hastings with his widowed sister Adelaide. Noonan worked for a number of local building firms, which provided background and characters for his book. In August 1910 he left Hastings for Liverpool, leaving the manuscript of "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" with his daughter. He planned to set sail for Canada but was admitted to hospital with advanced tuberculosis and died on 3 February, 1911. The first edited version of the book was published by Grant Richards in 1914. As well as archives linked to Noonan himself, Hastings Museum has archive collections on politics and early Socialism of that period.
The Museum has full wheelchair access throughout and disabled toilet facilities. Free parking available outside Museum, including 1 disabled parking bay. A British Sign Language interpreter is available on request for all Museum events. Please give at least 3 weeks' notice. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, John's Place, Bohemia Road Hastings TN34 1ET
Transport : Hastings (National Rail) then 8 minutes. Bus Routes : 23B, 24, 71, 76 and 304 stop outside.
Opening Times : Tuesday to Saturday, 10:00 to 17:00; Sundays 12:00 -17:00; November to March closes at 16:00
Tickets : Free
Tel. : 01424 451052