Family Outings: The Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter
The one-stop Empire shop
Sunday 08 May 2005
Established in 1868, the Royal Albert is a classic Victorian museum. Crammed under one roof you will find an outstanding collection of objects from around the world, an extraordinary collection of stuffed mammals, a vast butterfly collection, an Egyptian tomb and a decent smattering of local Devon history. The building is notable in its own right, constructed in the Gothic revival style from limestone, pink granite and lava-based Pocombe stone. The museum's 16 galleries draw on the South-west's role in the British Empire and the age of exploration.
Something for children
The more exotic ceremonial garments, particularly those from Africa, will set their imaginations racing. Several of the galleries have activity boxes, aimed at children aged five to seven, and there are also plenty of hands-on gadgets and touch screens. The animal collection is an astonishing sight and includes a polar bear, an African elephant, Gerald the giraffe, a hippo, and a Nile crocodile, as well as a tiger shot by King George V in 1911. The museum cleverly uses the exhibits to drive home a strong conservation message.
Something for adults
You will probably be drawn to the exceptional World Cultures section on the first floor. Among some exquisite items, the highlights include two carved wooden figures from a village in Afghanistan, while the pre-Columbian pottery section is of high quality, too. The collection of material from Captain Cook's early voyages is quite exceptional.
The café is bright, airy and family friendly. Dishes range from pasties to jacket potatoes, and spinach and feta lattice.
Items in the museum shop are a cut above the usual offerings. Kashmiri floor cushions go for £70, fenceposts carved from Australian wood cost £18 and there are Tibetan prayer flags and oddities such as Guatemalan worry dolls (tell the doll your worry, place it under your pillow and in the morning, the worry's gone).
Admission and access
The museum is open 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday, closed Sundays and Bank Holidays. Admission free. The museum has full disabled access and parking for Blue Badge holders. Wheelchairs are also available.
How to get there
Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Queen Street, Exeter EX1 1JN (01392 665858; www.exeter.gov.uk/visiting/attractions/museums/ramm/index.xml).
By car: there is car parking close by.
By public transport: Virgin Trains (08457 222333; www.virgintrains.co.uk) run services to Exeter St David's. The museum is a 15-minute walk away. Buses from the station stop in Queen Street or in the adjacent High Street.
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