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British Empire and Commonwealth Museum

The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum is an award-winning new national museum located in Isambard Kingdom Brunel's historic Grade 1 listed Old Bristol Station at Temple Meads. It has taken ten years to present this amazing exhibition of the British Empire over its little known 500 year history throughout its rise and fall.

The exhibition shows how the empire changed Britain and the effect it had on the rest of the world. There are sixteen interactive galleries plus exhibitions.

The first gallery begins with John Cabot’s voyage from Bristol in 1497 and his landing in Newfoundland off the coast of North America and how subsequent exploration, plunder and trade resulted in the expansion of the empire. It takes us from the plantations in the Americas and slavery to the colonisation of Australia and the impact on Australia’s first inhabitants.

The galleries following demonstrate a comprehensive history of the empire shown from every aspect with exhibits of relics, costume, film, video, photography and sound recordings.

The visitor is taken through an experience of the history of the largest empire the world has ever known from the maritime and military exploits through to the impact of increasing communications and technology.

The exhibition examines the history of the effects on its peoples and cultures and life in the colonies. It tackles issues of the slave trade, racism, emigration, conservation and environment and draws on a wide range of individual’s experiences and opinions about everyday life and the colonial period. We are taken through Victoria’s reign, how Britain expanded and controlled the empire, those who were first to emigrate and what it felt like to live under British rule. It shows how two World Wars and the change of attitudes brought about the end of the empire to be replaced by the Commonwealth. The final gallery shows an examination of life in Britain today.

There is a supporting major educational programme that includes a groundbreaking community radio station facility. There is a continuous and updated programme of special events, activities and special exhibitions.

The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum also has a shop and a café.



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