In 1934, the Lawrence Room on the Girton College main site was dedicated to be the college museum. Named after Girton natural scientist Amy Lawrence, it houses an Anglo-Saxon, an Egyptian and a Mediterranean collection. Before the establishment of the Lawrence room in 1934, antiquities had been stored in and around the college library. Donations allowed for refurbishments in 1946, 1961, 1991 and 2008. The Lawrence room is open on Thursdays from 14:00 to 16:00 tothe public. The exhibitions are free of charge. The Lawrence Room collection comprises three major elements: Anglo-Saxon: In 1881, an extraordinary discovery was made at Girton – a large Anglo-Saxon cemetery. Excavations revealed more than 70 skeletons along with well over 100 cinerary urns. These were filled with cremation ash and the burnt fragments of personal possessions dating from the fifth and sixth centuries AD. Discovered simultaneously were two second-century Roman graves indicating that the site may have been occupied almost continuously from the Roman into the Anglo-Saxon period. The Lawrence Room contains pieces from the excavations including a handsome Roman stone lion.
Egyptian: The Egyptian collection includes predynastic pottery, and significant collections of shabtis, scarabs, beads, and amulets. The undoubted star of the show is Hermione - a first century AD Roman portrait mummy. The beauty of Hermione’s portrait and the intricate pattern of her linen wrappings make her remarkable. The inscription Hermionê Grammatikê (‘Hermione the language teacher’ or ‘Hermione the literary lady’) makes her unique, and her resting place apt. Mediterranean: The Mediterranean material offers a cross-section of the Classical and pre-Classical worlds of interest to scholars and students alike. This includes an impressive collection of Tanagra figurines – small, mould-cast terracotta statues of humans, animals and birds – dating to the fourth and third centuries BC. The Museum of Zoology is currently closed for refurbishment.
The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge. The museum was founded in 1816 with the legacy of the library and art collection of the 7th Viscount FitzWilliam. The bequest also included £100,000 "to cause to be erected a good substantial museum repository". The collection was initially placed in the old Perse School building in Free School Lane. It was moved in 1842 to the Old Schools (at that time the University Library). The "Founder's Building" itself was designed by George Basevi, completed by C. R. Cockerell and opened in 1848; the entrance hall is by Edward Middleton Barry and was completed in 1875. The first stone of the new building was laid by Gilbert Ainslie in 1837. A further large bequest was made to the University in 1912 by Charles Brinsley Marlay, including a sum of £80,000 and a collection of 84 pictures. A two-storey extension, paid for partly by the Courtauld family, was added in 1931.
The museum has five departments: Antiquities; Applied Arts; Coins and Medals; Manuscripts and Printed Books; and Paintings, Drawings and Prints. Together these cover antiquities from Ancient Egypt, Sudan, Greece and Rome, Roman and Romano-Egyptian Art, Western Asiatic displays and a new gallery of Cypriot Art; applied arts, including English and European pottery and glass, furniture, clocks, fans, armour, Chinese, Japanese and Korean art, rugs and samplers; coins and medals; illuminated, literary and music manuscripts and rare printed books; paintings, including masterpieces by Simone Martini, Domenico Veneziano, Titian, Veronese, Rubens, Van Dyck, van Goyen, Frans Hals, Canaletto, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Picasso and a fine collection of 20th-century art; miniatures, drawings, watercolours and prints. Among the most notable works in the collection are the bas-reliefs from Persepolis. There is also the largest collection of 16th-century Elizabethan virginal manuscript music written by some of the most notable composers of the time. Composers such as William Byrd, Doctor John Bull, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tallis. Admission is free. Open Tuesday - Saturday: 10:00 - 17:00; Sundays & Bank Holidays: 12:00 - 17:00.
There are two entrances to the Museum: The Main Entrance and the Courtyard Entrance. Visitors with restricted mobility or with pushchairs should use the Courtyard Entrance, which provides street level access through automatic double glass doors, and is accessible from the Citi bus stop directly outside the gates to the museum. The Main Entrance to the Founder's Building of the museum is reached by a flight of 18 stone steps from street level. From this entrance, visitors have either to climb 24 stairs to reach the upper galleries, or descend 16 stairs to reach the lower galleries. A Lift to all floors is located near the Courtyard entrance and visitors can access the galleries on the ground floor, and galleries on the upper floor. The education suite with seminar room, studio, schools cloakroom and lunchroom is located on the lower ground floor, close to the Courtyard entrance. There is no lift access to the paintings displayed on the balcony in Gallery 3 (British 16th-18th century art). Assistance dogs are welcome.
The Museum holds archaeological finds from every part of the inhabited world. They range from some of the very oldest – early hominid tools discovered by Louis Leakey in Olduvai Gorge, east Africa – to medieval and post-medieval finds from sites within Cambridge. They include finds from major excavations crucial to the development of archaeological science, such as those conducted by Kathleen Kenyon at Jericho in the Jordan valley, one of the oldest continually occupied cities in the world, and material from Star Carr in Yorkshire, excavated by Grahame Clark over 1949-51. MAA holds one of the finest pre-Columbian collections in Britain, including remarkably preserved early textiles; important prehistoric Arctic materials; wide-ranging collections relating to early research in southern Africa, on rock art among other topics; and – of special interest to Cambridge communities – finds from major Roman cemeteries at Great Chesterford and Litlington, as well as many other prehistoric, Roman and Anglo-Saxon finds from the city and region.
MAA cares for works of art and artefacts from Asia, Africa, Oceania and native America, and those representing British and European folklore. Among the Museum’s most famous collections are those deriving from the voyages of Captain Cook to the Pacific in the 1770s. The Museum’s founding curator, Anatole von Hügel spent several years in Fiji and assembled the single most important collection of nineteenth-century Fijian art outside Fiji itself, and went on to be highly energetic, soliciting collections and donations from fieldworkers and travellers in many parts of the world. Major field collections include those made by Alfred Haddon during the 1898 Cambridge expedition to the Torres Strait, by Northcote W. Thomas from Nigeria and Sierra Leone, by Charles Hose from Sarawak, by Gregory Bateson from the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea, and by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf from the Nagas.
The main entrance on Downing Street is fully accessible to wheelchair users. There are accessible toilets inside the Museum and a lift to all three floors. An induction loop system is in operation at the main reception desk. Baby changing facilities are available. The Museum does not have a restaurant or cafe, but gallery staff will happily direct you to the nearest places to eat and drink. Assistance dogs are welcome. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10.30 – 16.30 and Sunday 12.00 – 16.30. Admission is free. Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ.
The Museum of Classical Archaeology is located in a purpose-built gallery on the first floor of the Faculty of Classics on the Sidgwick Site of the University. The museum is one of the few surviving collections of plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture in the world. The collection consists of several hundred casts, including casts of some of the most famous surviving ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. Noteworthy casts include those of the Laocoön and His Sons, the Farnese Hercules, the Barberini Faun and Charioteer of Delphi. The Peplos Kore is perhaps the best known exhibit in the Museum. It is a plaster cast of an ancient Greek statue of a young woman painted brightly as the original would have been, which was set up on the Acropolis of Athens, around 530 BCE. In 1975, the Museum attempted to replicate the sculpture’s original appearance by painting a cast of the figure. The replica was then displayed next to a second, unpainted cast as a challenge to the erroneous equation of ancient Greek sculpture with pure white marble.
The Museum also holds a large collection of sherds and epigraphic squeezes (A squeeze or squeeze paper is a reverse copy of an inscription). The museum is open to the public Monday to Friday: 10.00am to 5.00pm and on Saturdays in University term time: 10.00am to 1.00pm. Admission is free. The Museum is very well lit and guide dogs are very welcome. Touching tours can be arranged on request. The Museum is located on the first floor of the Faculty of Classics. There is level, paved access to the building itself and disabled access to the Museum is via a separate entrance and lift. The cast gallery, which is our main display space, is all on one level – and it is a wide and open space, with minimal obstructions. Faculty of Classics, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA
The Scott Polar Research Institute houses the world's most comprehensive polar library and archives. The archives contain an unparalleled collection of manuscript material relating to the polar regions, research and exploration. For scientists and scholars, the library offers a collection developed since the 1920s covering all subjects relating to the Arctic, the Antarctic, and to ice and snow wherever found. For industry, it is a prime information source on such subjects as exploration and exploitation of natural resources and on the environmental implications of such activities in the polar regions; on the design of ice-strengthened shipping and selection of sea routes; and on problems of construction and transportation in cold environments. The library also offers an unrivalled resource for the needs of international relations and strategic defence.
SPRI operates the Polar Museum, which features artefacts (particularly from the heroic age of exploration), paintings, drawings, photographs (which includes cinematographic film, lantern slides, and daguerreotypes), and other material relating to polar history, exploration, science and art. In 2010 the renovated Polar Museum opened its doors to the public. It now displays more of its collections than before. The new displays are based on the theme of exploration into science, emphasising both the history of exploration of the Arctic and Antarctic and the wider environmental significance of the poles in a changing world. Art and artefacts from the people who call the Arctic home are displayed alongside the last letters of Captain Scott and iconic Antarctic photographs by Herbert Ponting. A series of exhibits shows how science is undertaken in the harsh conditions of the polar regions. As well as these permanent exhibits, the Museum regularly hosts special exhibitions and shows of modern polar art. Admission is free. Open 10:00 - 16:00 from Tuesday to Saturday (and on Bank Holiday Mondays). The wheelchair accessible entrance is the main door on Lensfield Road, where there is a visitor-operated Sesame lift built into the steps. The SPRI Museum is housed in a beautiful Grade II listed building, and every effort is made to make access to the museum easy for everyone. Staff are always willing to help visitors with mobility difficulties; a hearing loop is available on request at the information desk and the WC is wheelchair accessible. The Museum has developed two audio tours, one suitable for adults and the other aimed at younger visitors. Assistance dogs are welcome.
The Sedgwick has a collection of around 2 million rocks, minerals and fossils, spanning a period of 4.5 billion years. They are an important international resource for research, learning and enjoyment. They are not yet all available to search online but information about the collections is available on a number of sites via the Museum's website. The Brighton Building is a purpose-built geological conservation laboratory and collections store in West Cambridge. The Palaeontological Collection contains over 1 million fossils from across the world. The Mineral Collections contain 40,000 - 55,000 mineral specimens from across the world, and more than 400 meteorite specimens. In most cases, a hand specimen of the rock is accompanied by a thin section. The strengths of the collection reflect current and historical research interests, and include Cornish and Cumbrian minerals and specimens from the Binntal of Switzerland. Examples from this collection are on display in the Mineral Gallery. The 'Beagle' Collection comprises approximately 2000 rocks and a few fossils collected by Charles Darwin during his voyage around the world on HMS Beagle between 1831-1836. The Harker Collection of igneous and metamorphic rocks is named after leading petrologist Alfred Harker who spent many years organising and cataloging the collection.
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences is the oldest of the University of Cambridge museums, having been established in 1728 as the Woodwardian Museum. The Maurice Black Sedimentary Petrology Collection consists of around 32,000 rock specimens and petrological thin sections. The Sedgwick Museum Archive Collection includes papers charting the history and development of the Museum, as well as the Sedgwick Club, the oldest student-run geological society in the world. The Archive also includes Adam Sedgwick's field notebooks, sketchbooks and specimen catalogues. Admission is free. Monday to Friday: 10:00 – 13:00, 14:00 – 17:00; Saturday: 10:00 – 16:00. For visitors with restricted mobility there is a lift located within the Department of Earth Sciences which can be used to access the Museum. There is a ramp leading to the door located beneath Museum staircase. Platform lifts enable access between the split levels of the gallery. Instructions and a key to operate these lifts are available from the front desk. A handling trolley with touchable specimens is located in the Resources Area. Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EQ.
The Whipple Museum of the History of Science houses an extensive collection of scientific instruments, apparatus, models, pictures, prints, photographs, books and other material related to the history of science. It is located in the former Perse School on Free School Lane, and was founded in 1944, when Robert Whipple presented his collection of scientific instruments to the University of Cambridge. The room now housing the Main Gallery of the Museum was built in 1618. Originally it was part of the first Free School in Cambridge and has also been used as an electrical laboratory and a display area for the Fitzwilliam Museum during its history. There is a wealth of fascinating artefacts and instruments here. The museum is well worth several visits to take it all in.
People have used globes to model the world around them since ancient times, although the earliest surviving globe dates from 1492. Edward Mogg made a 'celestial sphere' in 1813 to liven up children's geography lessons. His sphere was made up of cardboard pieces, allowing children to learn through assembling them. Edward Mogg (worked 1805-1848) was a cartographer by trade but made a celestial sphere. It was similar to Mrs Johnstone's dissected terrestrial globe of 1812. Mrs Johnstone's and Mogg's 'spheres' were made of interlocking cardboard plates, rather than being 3-D globes, and both were accompanied by a booklet. Mogg's 12 cardboard plates and his printed booklet were sold together in a firm paper slipcase, with the image on the front of the slipcase challenging young users to assemble a globe from the pieces enclosed. The sphere was priced at 10 shillings, about the same as educational books and miniature instruments of the period.
The Japanese star globe and historical astronomy. We do not know who made this globe, but a Chinese inscription on the sphere tells us that the object was crafted in Tenmei yonen saiji kinoetatsu gogatsu, that is, "the fifth month of the forth year of Tenmei". Tenmai is the name of an era in Japan spanning the period 1781-1789, so the sphere can be identified as Japanese and dated to 1784. The globe is less ornamental than the majority of Asian astronomical instruments that survive from the Edo period (1603-1868), such as the Japanese sundial pictured in Image 2. Stars are inked onto the paper surface, rather than being engraved on a costly metal sphere, as they would have been on courtly globes. The small size, low weight, and clarity of the characters suggest that the globe might have been used in teaching - the item could be readily carried around and the characters are easy to read. Alternatively, the globe might have been a prototype for a more luxurious instrument.
Employed by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Mesopotamians, the earliest calculating devices were systems of writing that used shorthand to denote specific and often large quantities. These written forms differed between cultures but usually involved groups of lines representing single units, with modified characters for intervals of five or ten. Counting sticks, knots, and tally sticks - with values denoted by specific notches - were common forms of counting and numerical record-keeping throughout the world. These systems, along with the use of Roman numerals, persisted through the Renaissance, as many were hesitant to adopt the Hindu-Arabic numerals used today out of concern for accuracy and the potential for forgery. The abacus is perhaps the most well known pre-modern calculating device, and is often associated with the wire-and-bead devices that originated in the Middle East. While its true origins remain debatable, the word abacus would have referred to an ancient practice of moving pebbles ('calculi') along lines written in sand. A common abacus today is the Japanese 'soroban', which has one 'heavenly' bead per wire representing 5, and four 'earthly' beads representing 1 each. This is a simplification of the Chinese 'Suanpan', in which more beads per wire can accommodate other decimal systems such as duodecimal
Most importantly, after 1400 CE new tools and techniques were developed for commerce, exploration, and natural philosophy, often serving multiple purposes. From the 17th century, the slide rule, for instance, became the most commonly used calculating device for nearly three hundred years. Beginning as a 'line of numbers' arranged on wood, paper, or brass, rulers attached to one another were used to align points along different scales to perform arithmetic and convert units. The Early Modern period was also the dawn of the age of clockwork and automation, which inspired the design of calculating machines. Such devices came together gradually, and were easier to design than to build. Scottish mathematician John Napier, who discovered the method of logarithms, first devised a set of rods for use in multiplication around 1614. A version of the rods in a box provided the template for a gear-based 'carry' mechanism to store values, enabling the first mechanical calculating devices. Blaise Pascal completed a number of such machines by the mid-17th century, and was followed by Samuel Morland and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz
The reduction of arithmetic to repeated mechanical manoeuvres influenced Johann Helfrich von Müller to conceive of a 'difference engine' that could handle more complex calculations. Müller's design, published in 1786, was intended to calculate tables of logarithms, replacing human 'computers' (that is, people employed to manually compute such tables) with an error-free machine. Forty years later, the English polymath Charles Babbage XR designed and attempted to construct a similar machine, capable of not only calculating but also printing tables. Babbage was not able to complete his machine in his lifetime, but a fragment re-constructed by his son Henry XR in the 1870s proved that the concept could work. The designs of Leibniz, Müller, and Babbage, which automated calculation with gears using 'registers' to store information as it was mechanically read, laid the foundation for the digital computers we have today. Modern computers were first developed to solve mathematical problems. In the 1930s, German engineer Konrad Zuse built his third automatic mechanical calculator, the Z3, which carried out instructions read in by a program.
There is wheelchair access to all floors of the Museum. The step-free entrance is via Pembroke Street/Downing Street, through the main archway of the New Museums Site (click here for a map). Wheelchair users may require staff assistance to access the galleries. Assistance dogs are welcome. The Museum's main entrance is located on Free School Lane, (between Bene't Street and Pembroke Street) in the centre of Cambridge. Please contact the museum for the opportunity to handle objects.
Location : Free School Lane, Cambridge, CB2 3RH
Transport: Cambridge (National Rail) then bus or 20 Minutes. Bus Routes : 75, 199 and Uni 4 stop nearby.
Opening Times : Monday to Friday 12:30 to 16:30
Tickets : Free
Tel: 01223 330906