Liverpool’s World Museum is a major museum featuring exhibits from around that world including artefacts from Egypt, Greece and Cyprus plus the award-winning Clore Natural History Centre and a planetarium.
The World Museum is the oldest museum in Liverpool. It opened in 1853 to display the 13th Earl of Derby’s natural history collection and during its early years was considered the most important public collection outside London. It has since expanded to become a major museum with a broad range of exhibits covering ancient history, world cultures as well as natural and physical sciences.
What to see at the World Museum
The museum has six levels of exhibits, although most of the ground floor is given over to the entrance hall and gift shop. Its collections include archaeology, ethnology, physical sciences and the museum also has significant exhibits dedicated to natural history with displays of botany, geology and zoology.
The museum’s antiquities collection on the third floor includes around 80,000 objects from across the ancient world. This includes artefacts from ancient Cyprus, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Middle East plus Palaeolithic to post-Medieval Europe and Anglo-Saxon England.
The ancient Cyprus collection includes artefacts from the Neolithic to Roman period that include the Kouklia collection and 125 limestone pieces donated by Captain Fothergill in 1872.
The extensive collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts includes over 16,000 objects spanning 5,000 years of history. With over 1,000m² (10,764 sq ft) of exhibition space dedicated to Egyptian artefacts, the World Museum has the second-largest Egypt gallery of any UK museum (after the British Museum).
The museum’s Egyptian exhibits show how the cultures of the Nile Valley have evolved from prehistoric times to the Byzantine period. The most important exhibits in this gallery are the Ramesses Girdle (it is rare for any clothing worn by a pharaoh to have survived thousands of years) and Papyrus Mayer B, also known as the Tomb Robbery Papyrus as it is part of a written confession (dating from around 1,118 BC) of a robbery of the tomb of Ramesses VI.
The ancient Greece collection includes around 1620 items spanning around 3,000 years. Artefacts in the collection mostly include items used in the daily lives of ancient Greeks such as ceramics and jewellery.
There are around 2,000 Roman artefacts in the museum’s collection including the largest collection of classical Roman sculpture in the UK outside of the British Museum.
The museum’s ancient Near East collection includes around 4,000 items from the region that nowadays is known as the Middle East. This includes artefacts from ancient Mesopotamia and Sumeria including 335 cuneiform tablets.
Closer to home, the museum’s antiquities also include around 1000 items from Anglo-Saxon England including the 7th-century Kingston Brooch which was discovered in Kent in the late 18th century.British and European antiquities at the museum span from the Palaeolithic to the post-Medieval period and include prehistoric stone tools, Celtic antiquities and carved ivory from the early Medieval period.
The museum’s antiquities galleries also include almost 18,000 coins from around the world including a significant collection of ancient Greek and Roman coins.
There are around 40,000 objects in the World Cultures gallery on the third floor with items from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania.
There are around 10,000 items in the African collection with an emphasis on the western coast of Africa, which has historically had strong maritime links with Liverpool. Some of the earliest items in this collection were Hausa artefacts collected on the Niger and Benue Rivers in 1855 and 1860. Other notable items in the collection include royal ivory bracelets from the Yoruba kingdom of Owo, 16th-century Sapi-Portuguese ivory horn from Sierra Leone and a masquerade costume from southeast Nigeria.
The museum’s Americas collection has almost 9,000 artefacts that range from pre-Hispanic items from Central and South America to Native American artefacts from the Arctic and the northwest coast of North America. The highlight of this gallery is the Codex Fejérváry-Mayer, which is one of the few pre-Hispanic Aztec manuscripts to have survived the Spanish conquest.
The Asian exhibits have around 14,500 objects including some items from the museum’s original collection. Much of the Asian collection includes artefacts from China, Japan and Tibet.
There are around 6,000 artefacts in the museum’s Oceania collection, which includes items from Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Exhibits include a Kiwi feather cloak and a model of a Maori war canoe from New Zealand and masks from Papua New Guinea.
The museum has significant exhibits related to natural history with separate collections devoted to botany, geology and zoology.
There is an aquarium on the first floor, which recently reopened after a renovation. The aquarium features marine life from Liverpool’s coast as well as more exotic species such as clownfish, rays and sharks.
There are more natural history exhibits on the second floor including the Bug House where you can see live insects and spiders and the Clore Natural History Centre which has the usual displays of fossils, skeletons and taxidermy that you expect to find in a natural history museum.
The fourth floor has more natural history-themed exhibits including a dinosaur gallery with a cast of a megalosaurus skeleton, an Oviraptor egg and bones from Ice Age mammals. The Natural World gallery, also on the fourth floor, focuses on animals from Africa and South America.
Time and Space
The physical science collection at the World Museum focuses on time and space with several important items from the Bidston Observatory and the Liverpool Royal Institution. The museum also has a major horology collection with over 12,000 items.
The Space gallery on the fifth floor has exhibits about space travel and the solar system. This gallery is located adjacent to the museum’s planetarium.Also on the fifth floor is the Time gallery, which has displays of clocks, watches and scientific instruments.
Temporary exhibitions at the World Museum
Although most of the museum’s displays are made up of its permanent collection, there are also several temporary exhibition spaces. Current and planned exhibitions include:
Return of the Gods
The Return of the Gods exhibition (until 25 February 2024) explores the ancient world through the lens of Greek and Roman mythology. The exhibition features over 100 sculptures and objects from the World Museum’s collection, as well as objects on loan from other museums.
The exhibition is divided into three sections:
- The Gods explores the stories of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, and how they were worshipped.
- Emperors and the Imperial Family explores how the Roman emperors and their families were depicted in art and sculpture, and how they were worshipped as gods.
- The Afterlife explores the beliefs of the ancient Greeks and Romans about the afterlife, and how they were depicted in art and sculpture.
The exhibition is a fascinating journey into the ancient world, and it is a great opportunity to learn about the stories of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, as well as the beliefs of the ancient peoples about the afterlife. £8.
Visiting the World Museum
The World Museum is on William Brown Street at the northern side of St John’s Gardens. It is at the northern end of the city centre, not far from Liverpool Lime Street railway station.Nearby attractions include Liverpool Central Library and the Walker Art Gallery, which are both right next to the museum. The Cavern Club and the Radio City Tower are both within a 10-minute walk of the museum.
Admission to the museum is free of charge and it is open 10am–5pm every day.
The planetarium near the fifth floor Space gallery has a programme of shows and most of these cost £3 to see, with the exception of the Night Sky show (Mon–Fri 4.30pm) which is free of charge for all visitors. Note: There is a charge to see the weekend Night Sky show.
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible and wheelchairs are available to borrow from the information desk.
There is a cafe near the ground floor entrance and there is also a large gift shop on the ground floor. Free Wi-Fi wireless internet access is available in the cafe area.
Most people spend up to two hours visiting the museum.