Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

Herbert Art Gallery and Museum
Herbert Art Gallery & Museum

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum from Cathedral Square
Established 1960
Location Jordan Well, Coventry, England
Public transit access Pool Meadow Bus Station
Website www.theherbert.org

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum (also known as the Herbert) is a museum, art gallery, records archive, learning centre and creative arts facility on Jordan Well, Coventry, United Kingdom.

It is named after Sir Alfred Herbert, a Coventry industrialist and philanthropist whose benefactions enabled the original building to be opened in 1960. Building began in 1939, with an interruption by the Second World War, and The Herbert opened in 1960. In 2008 it reopened after a £20 million refurbishment.

Admission is free and The Herbert is run by a registered charity. It derives financial support from donations, sales at the museum shop, and hiring the buildings out.[1] In 2010, the museum and gallery received over 300,000 visitors, making it one of the most popular free tourist attractions in the West Midlands.



Museums in Coventry before the Herbert included the museum of the Coventry City Guild and the Benedictine Museum, opened by J B Shelton in the 1930s. However, Coventry City Council's collection of art treasures and museum pieces were housed in various buildings and so the council acquired a half acre site over a number of years costing £35,375. In 1938 the philanthropist Sir Alfred Herbert donated £100,000 to the Corporation to erect a Gallery and Museum on the site.[2] Plans were drawn up, and building began the following year.[3]

The city's destruction during the Coventry Blitz meant construction was suspended with only the basement completed. City architect Donald Gibson's radical rebuilding plan for Coventry city centre became War time propaganda for the post-war reconstruction of Britain. But, Post-war economies required Gibson to concentrate on a building programme for the suburbs. Completion of the first building under his plan was delayed until 1953.[4]

New plans for the museum were drawn up in 1952, and in May 1954 the foundation stone was laid by Herbert, who also donated a further £100,000 to the project.[3] Herbert died in May 1957, and the museum and art gallery that bears his name was opened on 9 March 1960 by his third wife Lady Herbert.[3]

The covered court of the museum and art gallery in 2011.

The first phase of a two-phase refurbishment was completed in 2005 with £3 million of funds from Coventry City Council, Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund.[3] During the refurbishment, it was considered that a painting by 17th-century artist Luca Giordano was too large and fragile to move. Instead the 3.02 by 5.83 metres (9.9 by 19.1 ft) canvas, which has been with The Herbert since the 1960s and described as one of the museum's most prized paintings, was boarded up in 2005 and uncovered three years later in time for the opening.[5]

In early 2008 the second phase was completed at a cost of £20 million. A new entrance on Bayley Lane was provided, along with a 500 sq metre glass-covered court extension. The extended buildings include a new café area, education, training, creative media and arts information facilities, additional gallery spaces for temporary exhibitions, and facilities for conservation work and to preserve the city records and archive.

In July 2008, management of The Herbert was transferred to Coventry Heritage and Arts Trust, a registered charity[6] which also administers two additional local heritage sites: the Priory Visitor Centre for the Mediaeval remains of Coventry's first cathedral, and the Lunt Roman Fort situated three miles outside Coventry at Baginton.

In 2010 319,000 people visited The Herbert, an increase of 45% from the year before, making it the sixth most popular free tourist attraction in the West Midlands.[1] Between The Herbert's reopening in 2008 and March 2010, 500,000 people visited the museum.[7]

The museum won the Guardian Family Friendly Award 2010.[8] The same year, the gallery was shortlisted for the Art Fund Prize in recognition of its outstanding work in engaging new and diverse audiences.[9][10]


The Herbert from across Jordan Well

Permanent gallery spaces include Sculpture, Old Masters, Art Since 1900, Elements (Natural History).

The museum's notable collections include a costume collection dating from around 1800 to date, with the emphasis on 19th century women's wear.[11] The museum is now concentrating on the acquisition of more modern clothes and items from different ethnic communities in Coventry.[11]

Another collection represents the city's history as a centre for ribbon making, which includes over 250 sample books, as well as woven Stevengraphs - a form of silk picture and bookmark -[12] plus dyer's samples, documents, woven badges and related machinery.[13]

The Heritage Lottery Fund granted nearly £200,000 to The Herbert and Wolverhampton Art Gallery in 2008 for acquisitions in relation to the theme of peace and reconciliation.[14][15]

In 2011 the museum raised £12,000 to buy The Coventry Album, a collection of paintings by William Henry Brooke in 1819. The album is one of the most important collection of historic pictures of Coventry.[16]

Associated Arts and Heritage sites

The Coventry Heritage and Arts Trust also administers two other local heritage sites:

  • The Lunt Roman Fort is located in Baginton, about 3 miles from Coventry city centre, where there is a modern partial reconstruction of the fort that was established there in AD 60.
  • The Priory Visitor Centre [17] is located in Priory Row, Coventry city centre. This boasts the remains of medieval buildings from Coventry's first cathedral.

Temporary exhibitions and special projects

In 2005 The Herbert hosted a theatre project for children, showing them what it would have been like to be evacuees in the 1940s. The event won two awards, one for excellence in the field of heritage and the other for engaging children with history.[18][19]

There are four temporary exhibition spaces, and the temporary exhibition programme includes exhibition from national and international galleries such as The British Museum, V&A, Southbank Centre and Natural History Museum. Self created exhibitions also explore local themes and social history.

In 2009 The Herbert hosted a collection of fifty watercolours from British artists such as J. M. W. Turner and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.[20]

In 2010, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the museum's opening, the Herbert held several events throughout the year.[21] In March more than 1,000 people attended a special event where ten objects, including a 16th-century tapestry and Shakespeare's ring, illustrating the history of Warwickshire, were put on display.[22]

Herbert Media

Herbert Media is the in-house media service at The Herbert, and it manages recording studios, video editing rooms and training rooms, and produces much of the audio and visual sequences for the museum's exhibitions and permanent displays.[23] It also coordinates 'community response' films to exhibitions within the gallery as a way of further connecting art to the community.

Herbert Media also specialises in making films and interactive materials for other museums and art galleries, and the service was rewarded for its high standard of work in the 2009 Godiva Awards, winning the Innovation in Business Practice category.[24]

The facilities available at The Herbert include a large hireable exhibition space called 'The Studio', which is frequently used by the public and organisations. There is also a 'New Media Suite', with modern IT facilities, the Herbert Media Recording Studio (which comprises live and control rooms) and a MIDI Suite. Further Herbert Media facilities include Standard Definition and High Definition video editing suites, a corporate training room, and an arts information centre with additional resources and a reference library.


  1. ^ a b "Herbert earns top attraction tag as landmark visit looms". Coventry Observer. 26 August 2011. http://www.coventryobserver.co.uk/2011/08/31/story-Herbert-earns-top-attraction-tag-as-landmark-visit-looms-15764.html. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Sir A. Herbert's Gift To Coventry, The Times, 26 October 1938
  3. ^ a b c d McCarthy, James (2 September 2005). "Bright New Look For The Herbert; First Phase Of City Art Gallery Revealed". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 
  4. ^ Andrew Saint, ‘Gibson, Sir Donald Edward Evelyn (1908–1991)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  5. ^ "Painting Left Insitu Survives The Herbert's Building Works Intact". Culture24. 18 July 2008. http://www.culture24.org.uk/art/painting+%26+drawing/art59545. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  6. ^ Coventry Heritage and Arts Trust, Registered Charity no. 1124704 at the Charity Commission
  7. ^ Cane 2010, p. 7
  8. ^ "Coventry Herbert Museum and Art Gallery wins Guardian Family Friendly Award 2010". Culture24. 1 April 2010. http://www.culture24.org.uk/sector+info/art77525. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Final countdown for shortlisted four as voting draws to a close in £100,000 Art Fund Prize race". Culture24. 18 June 2010. http://www.culture24.org.uk/sector+info/campaigns/art79747. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  10. ^ ""Stunning" Ulster Museum wins Art Fund Prize 2010". Culture24. 1 July 2010. http://www.culture24.org.uk/sector+info/campaigns/art80056. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  11. ^ a b "Costume". Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. http://www.theherbert.org/index.php/home/collections/social-and-industrial-history/costume. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "Ribbon Weaving". Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. http://www.theherbert.org/index.php/home/collections/social-and-industrial-history/ribbon-weaving. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  13. ^ Dodge, Jenny (2007). Silken Weave - A history of Ribbon Making in Coventry from 1700 to 1860 (2 ed.). Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. ISBN 978-0-9541185-5-6. 
  14. ^ "Collecting Cultures – HLF Announces Grants For Acquisitions". Culture24. 5 June 2008. http://www.culture24.org.uk/art/art57986. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  15. ^ Cane 2010, p. 23
  16. ^ "Herbert Art Gallery and Museum asks public to help display William Brooke's Coventry Album". Culture24. 9 August 2011. http://www.culture24.org.uk/art/painting+%26+drawing/landscapes/art361984. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  17. ^ The Herbert | There's more to do with the kids this Summer at the Herbert!
  18. ^ Tappenden, Roslyn (26 May 2005). "Herbert Museum's Kids In The Blitz Project Is A Winner!". Culture24. http://www.culture24.org.uk/history+%26+heritage/war+%26+conflict/world+war+two/art28462. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  19. ^ Prudames, David (16 June 2005). "Kids In The Blitz & A Stately Rap – Roots & Wings Winners Revealed". Culture24. http://www.culture24.org.uk/places+to+go/yorkshire/leeds/art28987. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  20. ^ "Rare Watercolours And Drawings Visit Coventry's Herbert". Culture24. http://www.culture24.org.uk/art/painting+%26+drawing/landscapes/art64738. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  21. ^ Cane 2010, pp. 6–7
  22. ^ Cane 2010, pp. 17–18
  23. ^ "Art Gallery Houses Media Suite". Coventry Evening Telegraph: p. 14. 12 February 2004. 
  24. ^ "Herbert Media Wins Godiva Award" (Press release). Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. October 2009. http://www.theherbert.org/index.php/home/news/herbert-media-wins-godiva-award. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 

External links

Coordinates: 52°24′26″N 1°30′22″W / 52.407159°N 1.506098°W / 52.407159; -1.506098

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