Norfolk Museums Collections

Explore the Fascinating History with Norfolk Museums Collections

Norfolk Museums Collections is a collection of museums in the county of Norfolk, England. It is a network of ten museums and galleries across the county, managed by Norfolk Museums Service, which is part of Norfolk County Council.

The collections cover a wide range of subjects and periods, including archaeology, art, natural history, social history, and costume and textiles. They include objects and artifacts from around the world, as well as items that relate specifically to Norfolk's rich history and heritage.

Some of the most notable museums in the network include Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, which houses a vast collection of art and archaeology from across the region and beyond, and the Time and Tide Museum of Great Yarmouth Life, which explores the history and culture of the town and its people.

Other museums in the network include the Lynn Museum, the Strangers' Hall Museum, the Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life, and the Cromer Museum, among others. Each museum has its own unique character and collections, and together they provide a fascinating insight into the history and culture of Norfolk.

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The objects in the collection

There are approximately 3 million objects in the collections covering all subjects and museums. Most of the objects have been catalogued and we currently have nearly 500,000 digital records. This website offers almost 200,000 records which are a representative sample across the curatorial departments. We are working hard to publish more data in the future.

The objects in the Norfolk Museums Collections are diverse and cover a wide range of subjects and periods. Some examples of the types of objects you might find in the collection include:

  • Archaeological artifacts, such as prehistoric tools, Roman pottery, and Anglo-Saxon jewelry.
  • Fine art, including paintings, drawings, and sculptures by both local and internationally renowned artists.
  • Decorative art and design, such as ceramics, glassware, and furniture.
  • Natural history specimens, such as fossils, taxidermy animals, and botanical specimens.
  • Social history objects, such as clothing and accessories, toys and games, and household items.
  • Industrial and transport objects, including vehicles, machinery, and tools.

The collection also includes objects and artifacts that are specific to Norfolk's history and heritage, such as objects from the county's maritime and agricultural industries, and items relating to famous figures from Norfolk's past, including Horatio Nelson and Edith Cavell.

Overall, the Norfolk Museums Collections are a rich and varied resource that provides a fascinating insight into the history and culture of Norfolk, as well as wider themes and subjects.

Additions to the collection

The Norfolk Museums Service regularly acquires new objects and artifacts through donations, bequests, and purchases, and they also have a dedicated acquisitions fund to enable them to acquire important items that might otherwise be beyond their reach.

In recent years, the Norfolk Museums Service has acquired a number of significant objects and collections, including a rare early 19th-century microscope made by the Norwich-based instrument maker Benjamin Carpenter, a collection of paintings by local artist John Crome, and a hoard of more than 1,000 Roman coins discovered in a field in Norfolk. These acquisitions, along with many others, help to ensure that the Norfolk Museums Collections continue to grow and evolve, providing new insights and perspectives on Norfolk's rich history and heritage.

Recent cataloguing and digitisation projects have included the Shine a Light project, in which two large stores at the Norfolk Museums Collections Centre were fully audited and catalogued. In Norwich Castle Art Department stored works on paper have been digitised resulting in 4,600 works scanned and catalogued to date. Within the Cromer collections a fine collection of around 2000 photographic prints, autochromes and negatives by the pioneering local photographer Olive Edis have been scanned and are available to view online. Over at Kings Lynn, teams of volunteers have been cataloguing and scanning the stored collections.

More work remains to be done however. Behind the scenes, teams of curators and enthusiastic volunteers are working to improve the digital information about the collections.