Trumpington Street | Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge CB2 1RB, England
The Fitzwilliam Museum houses a world-renowned collection of over half a million beautiful works of art, masterpiece paintings and historical artefacts. It is free to visit, and features treasures ranging from Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities to the contemporary pieces. The cornucopia of artefacts covers one of the finest collections of paintings, drawings and prints in Britain. Included are significant collections of Asian art, medieval illuminated manuscripts, and outstanding collections of applied arts, pottery, porcelain and medieval coins.
The museum is a UK leader in fine-art conservation, and its Hamilton Kerr Institute is one of the world’s foremost centres for teaching in the conservation of easel paintings.
The Fitzwilliam is the principal museum of the University of Cambridge and leads the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) consortium, an Arts Council England funded National Portfolio Organisation. It is also the lead partner of the spectacular collections of the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) and Botanic Garden.
The museum was founded in 1816 with the legacy of the library and art collection of Richard FitzWilliam, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam. The bequest included £100,000 “to cause to be erected a good substantial museum repository”. The Fitzwilliam now contains over 500,000 items and is one of the best museums in the United Kingdom. The collection was initially placed in the Perse School building in Free School Lane. It was moved in 1842 to the Old Schools in central Cambridge, which housed the Cambridge University Library.
The “Founder’s Building” was built during the period 1837–1843 to the designs of George Basevi, completed by C. R. Cockerell. The foundation stone of the new building was laid by Gilbert Ainslie in 1837. The museum opened in 1848. The Palladian Entrance Hall, by Edward Middleton Barry, was completed in 1875. A further large bequest was made to the University in 1912 by Charles Brinsley Marlay, including £80,000 and 84 paintings from his private collection. A two-storey extension to the south-east, paid for partly by the Courtauld family, was added in 1931, greatly expanding the space of the museum and allowing research teams to work on site.
The museum buildings and, separately, the boundary along the street frontage, are Grade I listed.