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You are here:home > Leisure > Arts and Heritage

Arts and Heritage

External image of SeaCity's Pavillion, photo by Luke HayesSouthampton is a centre of national excellence for the arts and culture, building on the major strengths of our existing venues and collections. Southampton is a place that fosters and celebrates creative and media industries, including contemporary, visual and performing arts which reflects the city’s communities.

Find out what's happening in our museums and art gallery during autumn in our Museums and Gallery Events Guide. Visit our special exhibitions page to find out what's new in the gallery and museums.

We are a city that celebrates and shares its long, rich and internationally important heritage with ever increasing numbers of visitors from around the world. A vast collection of heritage material (archives, archaeology, finds, objects, photographs and oral history tapes) and fine art is available for research.

Talks and tours of the works on display or in store can be requested and some works can be borrowed for display in offices through the artlease scheme.

Two ships that Southampton is particularly associated with are the The Mayflower taking the Pilgrim Fathers to America and the Titanic.

Image Credit: SeaCity Museum's Pavilion, photo by Martin Cleveland

What you can see on display from our collections:

1. Development of Western art

The story of western art from the Renaissance through to the present day can be told using Southampton's designated art collection which comprises more then 3,500 works.

2. The story of Perseus in the Southampton Art Gallery

Features a complete series of gouache works by Burne-Jones on the Story of Perseus in the Baring Room at Southampton Art Gallery.

3. Temporary exhibitions and displays in our museums and galleries

We also mount a series of temporary displays and exhibitions drawn from our art and museum collections, and on occasion material brought in from individuals and other museums. 

How can you see or find out more about our collections (objects, documents and finds) that are not currently on display:

1. Objects excavated in Southampton

ArchaeologyThe archaeology collections are founded on donations from early antiquarians and have developed as a result of systematic archaeological investigations carried out within Southampton over the last century. The collection now receives material from all archaeological investigations within the city. A new museum was opened in 1963 (God's House Tower) especially to show off the city's rich archaeological finds.

These collections now comprise over half a million items and their national significance was officially recognised in 1998 when they were awarded Designated status, positioning them within the country's top 10 archaeological collections outside London.

If you would like to see works within this collection please contact the Curator of Archaeology at

2. A wealth of archival and photographic evidence dating back to 1199

ArchivesThe archives collections are consulted by some 2,500 individuals visiting the archives each year pursuing their interest in family history, educational projects, social, economic history and maritime history.

The collections include the whole range of activity in the city with written documents from 1199 to the present day. Most collections are for Southampton only but one, the central index of merchant seamen 1918-1941, includes people from all over the world who served on British ships.

The oral history archive is also available in the archives.

3. Objects bring Southampton's past to life

Maritime and Local CollectionsThe story of Southampton from the 18th century to the present through objects is to be discovered in the Maritime and Local Collections. Because of the way our collections have grown and the expertise of our staff, we do not collect material with the geology, or flora or fauna of the area. We have good collections of costume, a vast collection for ships and shipping, including ship models, and also engineering drawings, posters and plans.

Let us not forget Southampton's association with The Mayflower (Pilgrim Fathers), The Spitfire, Jane Austin and Titanic.

4. Follow the story of western art from the Renaissance to the present day

Story of western artIn 1998 the collection which now holds more than 3,500 works of art was "Designated" by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council as possessing Pre-eminent national significance. It remains the finest public collection of art south of London.

The collection comprises a small collection of old masters, a representative selection of 19th and early 20th century work, a collection of works on paper and a growing collection of contemporary works.

The Art Collection Database is a complete catalogue of all these works and offers a wealth of information suitable for both general interest and research. It is hoped the database will raise awareness to the collection and give access to this remarkable holding of fine art, sculpture, ceramics, video installations and wall drawings to as many people as possible.

The Art Collection Database was created through funding from the Designated Challenge Fund, administered by Resource, the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries.

If you would like to see works within this collection please contact the Curator of Art at

Contact information