Rugby: exploring the treasures of history and art

29 12 2007

“I am disturbed to see proof of Rugby’s existence as I always thought it was one of those places that didn’t have a town, only a train station [Kay]”

Which is very nearly true, were it not for the two things that make a trip to the town worthwhile. The first is Summersault an excellent vegetarian cafe/bar restaurant (with some more details here). The main reason for visiting Rugby is, however, its new Art Gallery and Museum.

Now where are we?

Opened in 2000 it is one of the new breed of municipal complexes, combining library, gallery amd museum but on a smaller scale than the Croydon Clocktower which was one of the first of the super-libraries. On the first floor is the museum which, although small, attempts to trace the history of the area from Roman times to the present day, its mission statement being to:

“collect and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the Borough and to generate a greater understanding of the Borough’s past through displays, and the creation of an accessible and user friendly archive”

The museum is particularly successful on recent industrial and social history (from about 1900 onwards) and we have spent much more time than expected engrossed in the minute details contained in the scanned documents.

Also on the first floor is the imaginatively titled First Floor Gallery a small space which can be hired by anyone for a two-week exhibition. At the moment this is filled by Silent Voices (closing 6th January 2008) a mixed media exhibition derived from a day long workshop introducing excluded young people from the area to animation. I can only hope the workshop was as much fun – and as successful – as the exhibition, of which this is a sampler:


Moving up to the top floor we have the main gallery space, home to the Rugby Collection of 20th Century British Art when not hosting visiting exhibitions. The reason we went to the gallery this time was to see the current exhibition Rugby Open 2007 (again closing 6th January 2008) which is to “celebrate the wealth of talent and skills in the region… in a range of media including ceramics, painting, photography, textiles and sculpture”.

Red glass/red light

“Detail of Red and black dish (2007) by Ruth Lynne (glass)”

As you would hope from an exhibition of this type the works ranged from bad (“that’s just bad fan art!”), through ones with strong technique and style but not to my taste, to a number of excellent works by Barbara Jones and Linda Keller (fortunately others shared our view of these works and they had already been sold, avoiding any post-Christmas drain on our bank account).

Wave Form II

“Detail of Wave Form II (2007) by Bridget Aldridge (coil formed glazed porcelain)”

The main gallery space is very welcoming, light and open, with friendly staff and an enlightened attitude to photography (they just ask you to sign that it’s for non-commercial use) with their purpose being:

we will provide

And their code of ethics:

code of ethics

There are details of the forthcoming exhibitions here.

— Words by Paul
— Pictures by Paul and Elizabeth




One response

5 01 2008

This looks like a really interesting place to visit and their attitude to photography is admirable. We’re big fans of local museums and are looking forward to the redevelopment of Coventry’s Herbert Art gallery – which is due to to reopen in autumn 08. The only time we’ve ever seen a mission statement for a museum is at the Ghibli museum in Japan. Their brochure quotes: “Let’s lose our way together… You will discover many interesting things in the museum. There are no set routes that you must follow. You are the one to discover your own way. Those who can lose their way and fully enjoy this space are welcomed at the Museum.”

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