Some 10 years in the making, the museum represents the first
serious attempt in the UK to present a publicly-accessible history
of the British Empire and its continuing impact.
The museum itself was established as a trust in 1986 and after
planning and fundraising, acquired a 99-year lease on the Grade
I listed Brunel's station building at Bristol's historic Temple
Meads Station in 1989.
The "old station" was built in 1839 at the beginning
of the railway revolution, which transformed so many regions
and areas of the British Empire and Commonwealth.
was actually built on the meadows of the 12th Century Temple
Church, with the architectural style of the building influenced
by Brunel's Tudor style.
museum building was originally part of Temple Meads Station
work began in 1993 with more than £4.5m ploughed into
At the same time as the restoration, the trust began to assemble
the objects, archives, photographs and other evidence such
as oral history, which would enable a stimulating and informative
museum to be founded.
museum opened fully to the public on September 26, 2002 and
has been nominated for selection as a World Heritage Site.
The building now looks much as it did when it was first opened
in the 1840s and is a major landmark within the city.
And its reputation is growing. It has even been selected for
the final list of candidates for the title of European Museum
of the Year 2004.
British Empire and Commonwealth Museum draws upon a wide range
of experiences and diverse opinions about the colonial period.
presents a history seen from all sides, from explorers to
aboriginal peoples, viceroys to freedom fighters, district
officers to indentured servants of the commonwealth's 53 member
The museum’s permanent exhibition features 16 themed galleries,
divided into three main sections.
Pacific exhibition contains material from various Commonwealth
covers not only the maritime, military and technological triumphs
of empire, but also examines issues such as racism, economic
exploitation, cultural imperialism and slavery.
starting point is John Cabots voyage from Bristol to
Newfoundland in 1497 and the birth of Britains trading
The exhibition concludes with an examination of life in Britain
galleries use a mix of authentic objects, uniforms, clothing
and textile, film, photographs and sound recordings, many
never seen before in public.
Most are from the museums archives,with the oral history
archive alone holding more than 1,000 interviews and radio
Some of the museum's material has been provided by other institutions
such as the British Museum, the National Maritime Museum and
the Science Museum.
guiding principle is to allow people access to a unique shared
history - whatever their faith or background.
permanent exhibitions are supported by a major educational
programme, which includes a community radio station facility.
Changing special exhibitions focus in detail on different
aspects of the main displays.
permanent exhibitions are supported by an educational
work on the museum is planned, with extension and refurbishment
expected to be completed by the end of 2006,with help of money
from the National Lottery Heritage.
museum is open every day of the year except Christmas Day
and Boxing Day.
Normal opening hours are 10am – 5pm. Last admission is at
A tour of the permanent galleries takes approximately two
Adults: £5.95 Children (5-15 years): £3.95 Senior citizens
and students: £4.95 Family Ticket (2 adults, 2 children):
There is full disabled access, including lifts and specially
The museum shop offers a wide range of related books, CDs
and gift items, including a large selection of arts and crafts
from throughout the Commonwealth.
The museum cafe is open during normal museum opening hours
for light refreshments.
By public transport
The museum is located right next to Temple Meads railway station
and is served by the city's principal public transport services,
including rail, bus (8 and 9), park and ride, river ferry
and airport shuttle.
Car users should leave the M4 at junction 19, taking the M32
to the city centre and Temple Meads station. Take junction
19 for Bristol city centre if travelling north on the M5 or
junction 18 if travelling south.
Free car parking is available on a first-come-first-served
basis, at weekends only, at the rear of the museum.
Otherwise you'll need to use public car parks and allow for
a short walk to the museum.