Leicester Museum & Art Gallery is inviting families to join its 175th anniversary celebrations this Sunday, 16 June.

Inspired by the enormous cetiosaurus skeleton that has pride of place at the museum, the programme for Sunday’s events has a dinosaur theme. The Birthday party will run from 11am – 3pm and is free of charge.

Families can look out for the Baby Dinos, who will be roaming around the museum from 11.30am, and enjoy an appearance by the Animatronic Dino at 1pm.

Youngsters will also be able to make a Dino keyring, request a dinosaur-themed makeover from the museum’s face painters, and enjoy all the exhibits in the Dinosaur Gallery – including the giant cetiosaurus that was discovered in Rutland in 1968.

The museum opened to the public on 19 June 1849 – making it one of the first municipal museums in the country. In fact, when it opened in 1849, Thomas Cook, the travel pioneer, hoped it would become “an instructive lounge for the lovers of science.”

We caught up with Audience Development & Engagement Manager, Mark Simmons, to find out more about life at the Museum.

What makes Leicester Museum & Art Gallery so special?

For me personally, it’s that Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, on New Walk, has been free admission to everyone since it first opened on 19th June 1849. We’re proud of our  175 years of welcoming people from all communities, all ages, and all places, to enjoy everything that the city’s flagship museum has to offer.

For anyone who’s never been to Leicester Museum & Art Gallery, what are some highlights they should start with?

It’s a brilliant free day out for all the family. Everyone loves the dinosaurs, including the 170 million year old Cetiosaurus (see-tee-oh-sore-rus), one of the most complete dinosaurs ever found in Britain. The museum also has one of the best Plesiosaur collections outside of London. There’s Art of all kinds, crafts and design, ceramics by Picasso, and the largest display of German Expressionist artworks outside of Germany. The museum’s Ancient Egyptian displays are very popular, especially with schools, whilst the new Leicester Stories gallery speaks about life in the city since the 1950s in peoples’ own words.

Tell us a little more about the highlights of this weekend’s celebratory event?

Visitors can join us on Sunday 16th June, Father’s Day, between 11.00am and 3.00pm, to celebrate the museum’s 175th birthday with family fun party activities on a Dinosaur theme. We’ve got baby dinosaurs roaming the museum, carried by their puppet performers, and an animatronic dinosaur outside the museum at 1.00pm. You can make a dinosaur keyring, and get your face painted. We’ve also got pass the parcel games, but places for these are now completely all booked up in advance.

What else is coming up at the museum in the next few months?

We also have an ever-changing range of award winning temporary exhibitions. Highlights this summer include  Renoir’s world-famous masterpiece “The Umbrellas”, which is on loan to Leicester from the National Gallery in London as part of the celebration of their 200th Anniversary.  And “Snakes”, an interactive exhibition where you can come face to face with displays of taxidermied snakes, skeletons and models, and find out about how they feed, adapt to different environments, and use camouflage.

The models and taxidermy  are very lifelike, but we can assure you that the displays do not include live snakes, and that no snake was harmed to produce the displays.

Both Renoir and Snakes run to 1st September, after which we’ll have a major exhibition by the British Asian painter Kamal Koria, an exhibition of baskets from around the world, and in December, the annual Open, the people’s art exhibition, where we expect submissions from up to 1000 local artists aged from 3 to 103.

What is your personal favourite area of the museum?

I like sitting quietly in the museum galleries and listening to visitors reactions to exhibitions, and learning more about what they think about the city’s arts, culture and heritage.  My favourite items have to be the museum’s dodo, and Peppy the Foxes Glacier Mints Polar Bear, who we took out “on the road” in February as part of our ongoing Doorstep Museums programme with our colleagues in Libraries. And working with the team in our collection stores on the next big exhibitions and displays. We work years ahead on these, and we’ve got some exciting things planned over the next few years. Here’s to the next 175 years.

Leicester Museum & Art Gallery now welcomes around 250,000 visitors each year and maintains a collection of more than 1.5million objects and artefacts.

More information about Leicester’s museums is available at leicestermuseums.org

The 175th Birthday event runs from 11am – 3pm on Sunday 16 June and is free entry. 


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