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“Not sure the end result reflects the 3-year closure and £6m budget...”

The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum
Ranked #8 of 71 things to do in Cheltenham
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: Four new floors house extensive galleries for temporary exhibitions - for international / national touring shows, special highlights from our collections and fun shows for families - space to discover local heroes and archive collections, including the great Edward Wilson (one of Scott's key men on his 1912 expedition to Antarctica), and a new gallery space in which the internationally renowned Arts & Crafts collection will be shown.
Reviewed 20 October 2013

Walking into Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery (almost arbitrarily re-named The Wilson) is like walking into an unfinished hangar. The unpolished concrete, metal stairways and banisters and the open reception makes for an initial feeling of messiness and coldness.

The exhibition areas are laid out in a predictable and slightly tired sort of way. Many exhibitions had no interpretation or information at all. The 'newseum' section was probably the best of all this, but the rest left me feeling cold and uninformed.

The older part of the museum, save for a bit of a repaint, remains essentially unchanged. Certain sections are quite interesting, but these spaces do feel tired and old. Despite being called The Wilson, the museum hardly does justice to the antarctic explorer: this room was cramped and cheap-looking. There are some excellent collections of furniture in the museum but many pieces were displayed as if for sale in a junk shop.

All in all I was a bit disappointed. Having waited so long I was expecting the museum to deliver something a bit more interesting. As it is, the older sections of the museum remain unchanged (some have inaccurate information, especially in the sections relating to 'modern' Cheltenham, which have not been altered for some time) and the newer sections do not use the space effectively.

As with any museum, it is definitely worth a visit. However, I can't imagine why I'd visit again.

(I should say that the new reception area, whilst cold and too industrial, does provide a lovely pathway to Cheltenham Minster).

1  Thank BenandAlexandra
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cheltenham T, Guest Relations Manager at The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, responded to this reviewResponded 21 December 2013

Thank you for your comments. We are sad to hear the new design was not in your taste. The new building’s aim is to give an honest expression. The building was designed by Berman Guedes Stretton and their concept was to produce a building that is of this century which sits comfortably in a street scene composed of buildings that date from the 18th century to the present. The materials selected for the gallery are natural or self finished to give an honest expression and to reduce maintained demands. False ceilings and raised floors are omitted so that each material is allowed to speak for itself, continuing a theme of honest expression. Paintwork is limited in the gallery spaces where simple wall surfaces allow easy reconfiguration.
The new arts and crafts display is much bigger than the previous one and now we have more space the long term plan is to be able to display more of the furniture, so that what is currently is in storage can as well be seen. We have also created the arts and crafts furniture store area, so this is an extra space where more of the collection can be seen rather than in a storage area which is not assessable to the public.
The older part of the museum will be refurbished as part of the second phase of refurbishments and we will have more details of this soon. We are aware of a couple of inaccuracies in the modern Cheltenham section where things have recently changed in the town and are in the process of sorting these out.
We would hope you do visit again especially as there is no entrance fee to visit the museum and with the various new exhibitions next year there should be something of interest to you.

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"local history"
in 14 reviews
"interesting exhibits"
in 8 reviews
"wide range of exhibits"
in 4 reviews
"craft shop"
in 6 reviews
"on display"
in 13 reviews
"worth a visit"
in 18 reviews
"excellent cafe"
in 5 reviews
"free entry"
in 6 reviews
"couple of hours"
in 12 reviews
"enjoyable visit"
in 5 reviews
"two hours"
in 6 reviews
"cake"
in 7 reviews
"high street"
in 4 reviews
"town centre"
in 4 reviews
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in 80 reviews
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353 - 357 of 359 reviews

Reviewed 17 October 2013

Spent a couple of hours here with my friend and our two daughters. First time I had been back since the refurbishment. I must admit I was totally underwhelmed by it. I had expected a much more interactive experience and new exciting layout. Instead, it was quite stark, minimalist and not child friendly. The staff were quick to pounce on anyone accidentally touching an exhibit - very stuffy atmosphere.

We then found ourselves in the older part of the museum which seemed totally untouched by modernisation. However, my daughter was thrilled that the children's 'Stay and play' still existed, although it was a bit old and tired. I was hoping for a new children's area with the refurbishment to stimulate children and excite them.

We did enjoy the glass exhibition because of the colour and the lens features, but it was not enough. The general feel of the new section was that the floor hadn't been finished and it did not seem inviting, so maybe I am missing the point! What a shame that I felt so disappointed after my high hopes.

3  Thank Pankadoodaa
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cheltenham T, Guest Relations Manager at The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, responded to this reviewResponded 21 December 2013

Thank you for your comments. I am disappointed that you were under whelmed during your visit. However I am very pleased that your daughter was thrilled with the stay and play area. It is extremely popular with children who thoroughly enjoy the dressing up clothes, masks, dolls house, puzzles, colouring and toys available there.
In terms of accidentally touching the exhibits I am sorry if you felt pounced upon but we are very keen to protect the articles in the art gallery and museum from any damage, so future generations can continue to enjoy them. We will work on a way to ensure protection of the exhibits without people feeling pounced on if they do accidentally touch something, we understand the importance of getting the balance of this correct & a pleasant customer experience is very important to us.
In respect of the feel of the new building, its aim is to give an honest expression. The building was designed by Berman Guedes Stretton and their concept was to produce a building that is of this century which sits comfortably in a street scene composed of buildings that date from the 18th century to the present. The materials selected for the gallery are natural or self finished to give an honest expression and to reduce maintained demands. False ceilings and raised floors are omitted so that each material is allowed to speak for itself, continuing a theme of honest expression. Paintwork is limited in the gallery spaces where simple wall surfaces allow easy reconfiguration. I hope this helps explain the feel of the building and why it had been designed like this.
The older part of the museum will be refurbished as part of the second phase of refurbishments and we will have more details of this soon.

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Reviewed 14 October 2013

We were so delighted that we have visited The Wilson last Sunday.
Finally, Cheltenham has got an attraction it deserves. Money well invested.
The museum building itself, looks very contemporary yet feels warm, inviting and is full of light. The staff is helpful and polite and we felt very welcome.
Temporary exhibitions (in particular Casting Brilliance and The Times Newseum) were absolutely splendid. I am very excited to see the future exhibitions.
The Museum has a play corner for the little ones which is an additional plus.
A must see for all!!!

1  Thank AlwaysSpeakOut
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cheltenham T, Guest Relations Manager at The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, responded to this reviewResponded 21 December 2013

Thank you for your delightful comments. We are really pleased you enjoyed your visit to The Wilson and that you are excited to see the future exhibitions.

We have the Embrace exhibition from the 18th January which will include Rodin’s The Kiss. Other exhibitions coming up in 2014 include: The Open West - Contemporary art of all media attracts international field of artists established and emerging, The National Portrait Gallery – Photographic Portrait Prize & Dinosaurs.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

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Reviewed 11 October 2013

Cheltenham Borough Council having spent almost £6m have now re-opened this extremely good art galery and museum.
Although the current exhibition of glass design is not of interest to me I found the use of the new space to be particularly interesting and the exhibits well presented.
My principle interest was the social history of Cheltenham which I found to be excellent and most interesting.
The ground floor cafe should be visited, the interesting range of food will make the visit worthwhile.
Well done to Cheltenham for spending the money

1  Thank robert W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cheltenham T, Guest Relations Manager at The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, responded to this reviewResponded 21 December 2013

Thank you for your lovely comments. We are really pleased you enjoyed your visit to The Wilson and the local history section of the museum. Just to also let you know The Paper store here will be opening in the New Year, so I am sure you will find this of interest as well.

The new exhibition space is very exciting with many new ones planned for 2014, we hope you come back to visit. Embrace is the new exhibition replacing the Colin Read “Casting Brilliance” Glass exhibition. This exhibition will explore the work of artists of the 20th century and onwards whose work hints at their fascination with the human embrace. Depicted through a range of media including painting, sculpture, photography and film, the exhibition will include work by Jacob Epstein, Marc Chagall, Eileen Agar, Gilbert and George, Charlie Murphy, Kenneth Armitage, Emma Critchley, Chris Ofilli, David Inshaw and Eileen Cooper on loan from national museums, galleries and private collections. It starts on the 18th January and runs until 21st April 2014 and also includes the Return of Rodin’s Kiss which is here from the 14th February.

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Reviewed 24 February 2018 via mobile
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cheltenham T, Public Relations Manager at The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, responded to this reviewResponded 5 days ago

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