There’s a danger of boring people to death when describing museums, so forgive me if I don’t include everything that this museum has to offer.
The Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) was built in the Gothic style in the 1860s. It’s a handsome building, and with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a multi-million pound re-development took place between 1999 and 2011.
The new-look museum was such a success that the Art Fund named it Museum of the Year in 2012.
It might have cost millions to bring up to date but it’s still free to go in, and so there’s no real reason not to pay it a visit. There are two entrances but the main one is in Queen St at the front of the building.
Briefly, the layout of the museum is spread over two levels, with the Ground Floor concentrating on local interest, whilst the upper First Floor includes items from other cultures and specimens from the natural world. There is more to it than that of course, but that’s the gist of it.
Whenever I go to a provincial museum I tend to concentrate on seeking out the things that are of local significance, and if you feel the same way as me then just turn right when you enter the museum and head towards Room 2 called ‘Down to Earth’. From there you can work your way back up through Rooms 3&4 called ‘Making History’. If you do it this way you’ll be following the history in chronological order. If you do it the other way around you’ll be working backwards – which is ok if that’s how you prefer to do it.
The Down to Earth gallery, as you would expect, covers the geological landscape and the time of early man in Devon. The Making History gallery is the largest (and most interesting for me) in the museum, and covers local Exeter and Devon life from the prehistoric period through to the modern day.
If you make it to the galleries upstairs then you’ll probably want to see the most interesting items on display which includes an Egyptian tomb and Gerald the Giraffe.
Gerald was given to the museum by a big game hunter in 1919 and has been a popular exhibit ever since. Prior to that, Gerald lived on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, which in my view is where he should have finished his days, not stuffed (literally) in a museum.
As with any museum, you can spend varying amounts of time here, depending on your interests. Probably anything between an hour or two would satisfy most people, not including a café stop, which I prefer going elsewhere for to be honest.
If you’re not pressed for time I would recommend leaving the museum by way of the Garden Entrance on the First Floor which brings you out to the Roman/City Wall and into the lovely Rougemont and Northernhay Gardens.
Check out the RAMM web page for all the latest details.