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Explore selected highlights from the Fitzwilliam's collection by theme or time

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Hidden Histories: names and faces

Personal histories associated with a selection of objects in the Fitzwilliam  






Illuminated: Manuscripts in the Making

A window onto the world of medieval and Renaissance painting  

Online Exhibitions

  • Fitz3D Challenge - Making meaning: How creative can you be?

    The Fitzwilliam Museum’s collection includes approximately 50 medieval wooden sculptures. Some of them are brightly painted, whilst others have been stripped of their colours over time. Very little is known about them – their appearance, origin and function are open to interpretation. As part of a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Impact Fund, we have invited makers around the world to reinvent some of these sculptures: using 3D scans available online, makers were free to reinvent shape, colour, function and context in a quest to explore new meanings.
  • Making Waves

    Discovering seascapes through drawings and watercolours

  • Bible & Antiquity in Nineteenth-Century Culture

    The Fitzwilliam Museum is a superb place to explore the Bible and antiquity and the collisions and connections between them in the nineteenth century. Itself a monument in stone to the Victorian obsession with Greek and Roman culture, and to the acquisitive Europhile Grand Tourism of its founder, the Seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam (1745-1816), its collections are testament to the continuing purchase of these pasts in a self-consciously modern age.

  • Sampled Lives

    The samplers displayed in this gallery have been chosen not to demonstrate the quality of the schoolgirl embroidery of the past, but rather to be studied as stitched documents. By analysing and interpreting the motifs and patterns, the pictorial elements and inscriptions, each sampler tells a story of female accomplishment, of a girl’s growing sense of identity, of a desire for education and the changing attitudes to, and opportunities for, employment in adult life

  • COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts

    This online exhibition presents a selection of the manuscripts displayed in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s bicentenary exhibition COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts (30 July – 30 December 2016). An exhibition of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts is a fitting celebration of the Museum’s bicentenary. The Fitzwilliam preserves the finest and largest museum collection of illuminated manuscripts in existence, and manuscripts were at the heart of the Founder’s collection with which the Museum was established in 1816. Among the treasures which Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion (1745-1816), bequeathed to the University of Cambridge were 130 illuminated manuscripts.

  • Arming a Knight and his Horse

    On 29 May 2013, the Fitzwilliam Museum hosted its very own Armoury Extravaganza. This public-facing, interactive event sought to explore the human experience of wearing armour, highlighting the importance of fit, form, function and fashion.

  • Under the Covers: The Conservation and Rebinding of Fitzwilliam MS 251

    This resource is designed to show the conservation work which was carried out on MS 251, from the initial decision-making process through the conservation of the leaves to the eventual rebinding, a project which took 214 hours to complete.

  • The Lewis Collection: From Corpus Christi to the Fitzwilliam Museum

    The Lewis Collection is currently housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum, on long term loan from Corpus Christi College.

    Here, we celebrate the man behind one of largest antiquarian collections to have remained in private ownership.

  • Snow Leaves Ferns: An online exhibition about the work of Cecilia Glaisher

    This virtual exhibition introduces the Museum's holding of work by Cecilia Louisa Glaisher (1828-1892) and the images she made of ferns and snow crystals. Now that the material has been digitally copied and placed online, it is possible for it to be seen more widely and studied in detail for the first time since it was created in the 1850s.

  • Death on the Nile: Uncovering the afterlife of ancient Egypt

    • The project examines every aspect of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s collection of coffins from ancient Egypt

  • Searle and caricature – responses from caricaturists today

    From 13 October 2015 to 31 January 2016, the Fitzwilliam Museum hosted two exhibitions on caricaturists and visual satire - Ronald Searle: ‘Obsessed with drawing’ and Cradled in Caricature: Visual humour in satirical prints and drawings.

  • Treasured Possessions from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment

    A dazzling journey through the decorative arts: from the hand-crafted luxuries of the Renaissance to the first stirrings of mass commerce in the Enlightenment.

  • Trading Places: 18th century trade bills at the Fitzwilliam

    An online exhibition about the Fitzwilliam Museum's collection of trade bills, sent to members of one family - the Blathwayts - living on Golden Square, London, from 1767-87.

  • Weaving Stories

    Many stories in the Bible are very dramatic and exciting. They make good pictures and have inspired artists for hundreds of years in every possible medium: wood, stone, paint, glass, mosaic, weaving and embroidery.

  • La Grande Guerre: French prints of World War One

    The first seven months of the First World War are dramatically illustrated in the colour lithographs and woodcuts of the series La Grande Guerre.

  • Painting in Focus: Nicolas Poussin’s Extreme Unction

    Extreme Unction was acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum in 2012 through the HM Government’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, and numerous charities and public donations. It is the most important old master painting to enter the museum’s collection for over a century, and makes a notable addition to the permanent collection of 17th-century French paintings.

  • The Night of Longing. Love and desire in Japanese prints

    This exhibition of Japanese woodcuts and books of the Edo and Meiji periods (c.1600-1900) is based on the Fitzwilliam Museum's collection.

  • Stories behind the Stitches: Schoolgirl Samplers of the 18th and 19th Centuries

    Discover information about the makers, the schools they attended and the function of needlework in these institutions.

  • Origins of the Afro Comb

    In the 20th century 'afro' combs have taken on a wider political and cultural message, perhaps most notably in the form of the 'black fist' comb that references the Black power salute.

    This website aims to trace the history and the meaning of the African hair comb over nearly 6000 years in Africa, through to its re-emergence amongst the Diaspora in the Americas, Britain and the Caribbean.

  • Between East and West: Influence and Change in Coinage

    This virtual exhibition, based on an exhibition in the Fitzwilliam Museum from April to June 2001, explores the impact that Western concepts of money have had upon Asia in particular, from the time of Alexander the Great and before, up to the post-colonial and modern coinages of the present day.

  • Snow Country. Woodcuts of the Japanese Winter

    Japanese artists have long responded to an altered world of frozen forms, stilled by a blanket of snow. These pages were first created to accompany an exhibition that displayed most of this selection for the first time in the Fitzwilliam Museum from 2 October 2012 to 13 January 2013.

  • Ceramic Art, Craft and Tales from Medieval Cyprus

    This online exhibition presents a number of Cypriot pots and other objects from the collection of the Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia, along with 8 from the Fitzwilliam Museum's own collection.

  • Anglo-Saxon Art in the Round

    An Exhibition of Anglo-Saxon Coins and Artefacts to Celebrate the Acquisition by The Fitzwilliam Museum of the De Wit Collection of Early Anglo-Saxon Pennies

  • Triumph, Protection and Dreams: East African Headrests in Context

    This exhibition aims to offer visual evidence for the extraordinary diversity of the headrest in African cultures and to raise questions with regard to continuity, development and change, rather than to present a single social theory to explain the continued use of this iconic object over a period of almost 5000 years.

  • The Normans. Three Centuries of Achievement, 911 - 1204

    This exhibition, mounted in the Fitzwilliam Museum from 1 July - 12 September 2004, explores the rise and fall of the Normans.

  • Italian Drawings: Highlights from the Collection

    Italian Drawings: Highlights from the Collection brings together works by some of the world’s greatest artists. Because they are so sensitive to light, drawings are not kept on permanent display. This exhibition, therefore, gives us a rare chance to appreciate works by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo and Titian.

  • Portraits by Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630)

    The Fitzwilliam Museum's collection includes nearly all of Leoni's portrait prints, which came from the collections of Lord Fitzwilliam (1745-1816) and John Charrington (1856-1939). The exhibition also includes two drawings by Leoni from the Fitzwilliam Museum's collection and five drawings reproduced with the generous permission of the Master, Fellows, and Scholars of Downing College in the University of Cambridge

  • Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan. Naval Diplomat and Collector

    Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, an American naval officer who famously opened up Japan to the West in 1854, and an outstanding example of an early American coin collector.

  • Coins as an Historical Source

    With some 200,000 numismatic objects, the Fitzwilliam Museum's collection is one of international importance, and the Museum is one of the three main centres for numismatic study in the United Kingdom.

  • Nubia: Past and Present

    Nubia: Past and Present explores the people of Nubia and their environment, and presents the landscape and archaeology of this region, through traditional photography and film. 

  • The Eagle on Coins: Divine King of the Birds and Symbol of States

    Why are both emperor Frederick II and the future Napoleon III represented in connection with eagles?

  • Tokens of Revolution

    The Propaganda Coins of Thomas Spence and his Contemporaries 

  • The Shahnameh: a Persian Cultural Emblem and a Timeless Masterpiece

    The Persian ‘Book of Kings’ — the Shahnameh — is the national epic of the Iranian people. It traces the history of the Iranian world from its creation to the fall of the Sasanian Empire in the seventh century. 

  • Black to Kemet. Placing Egypt in Africa

    This exhibition invites the viewer to consider the appearance of the people of Kemet around 3000 years ago and to ask the question: ‘Were the ancient Egyptians Black?’ as we use the term in Britain today.

  • Virtual Kemet Gallery

    ‘Kemet : the Black Land’ tour offers vivid glimpses into many aspects of life in ancient Kemet. 

  • Netsuke: Japanese Art in Miniature

    This small exhibition brings together 250 superb examples of netsuke - a form of miniature sculpture originating in 17th-century Japan.

  • The Imagery of War

    An Exhibition of British and other Military Medals to celebrate the Donation to Cambridge in America of the Lester Watson Collection

  • 21st Century Engraved Glass

    An exhibition by the Guild of Glass Engravers

  • Antonio Rodriquez and the New Zealand Cross

    In 1877 this medal was awarded to this man, Antonio Rodriquez de Sardinha, a naturalised citizen of New Zealand. It came to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 2006 with the rest of the Lester Watson medals collection.

  • Maggi Hambling: The Wave

    This online exhibition features a small selection of works by Maggi Hambling exhibited, with others, in the Mellon Gallery (Gallery 13) from 27 April to 8 August 2010.

  • Clouds and Myths Monotypes by Lino Mannocci

    An online exploration of a selection of recent works by Lino Mannocci. Produced to accompany the exhibition 'Clouds and Myths: Monotypes by Lino Mannocci' (Tue 9 February 2010 to Sun 9 May 2010).

  • Lumière: Lithographs by Odilon Redon

    This online exhibition features The Fitzwilliam Museum's entire collection of prints by Odilon Redon. Produced to accompany the exhibition 'Lumière: Lithographs by Odilon Redon' (22 September 2009 - 10 January 2010).

  • Fans

    An online exhibition exploring the history of the fan in its various forms and the range of fans in the Fitzwilliam Museum collection.

  • Select recent acquisitions of Drawings & Prints

    This online exhibition was first produced to accompany the special display of a range of drawings and prints acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum over the ten years 1999-2009. 


  • Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts

    Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was the most famous and significant natural scientist of his century. This exhibition explores the interchange between science and art. 

  • Fitzwilliam Sculpture Promenade 2009

    The inaugural annual exhibition of sculpture on the Museum lawns, creating a dynamic new focus for contemporary art in Cambridge, featuring work by members of the Royal British Society of Sculptors: David Begbie, Wu Wei-shan, Johannes von Stumm, Richard Fenton, Charles Hadcock, Diane Maclean, Terry New and Andrew Stonyer.

  • A Century of Giving. A celebration of the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum

    This online exhibition marks the centenary of the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum and highlights the contribution they have made to the Museum's collections through their sustained generosity.

  • Utamaro Books

    Here you can turn the pages of three books from the collection of The Fitzwilliam Museum - The Bird Book, The Insect Book, and The Shell Book - with illustrations designed by the Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro to accompany poems on natural themes.

  • Anthony Van Dyck

    This online exhibition concentrates on the Fitzwilliam Museum's collection of etchings by the Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641).

  • The Fitzwilliam Museum: A Source of Inspiration

    This exhibition traces how contemporary ceramicists, musicians, painters, photographers, sculptors and writers have responded to the Fitzwilliam Museum and its collections.

  • 'I turned it into a palace' Sir Sydney Cockerell and the Fitzwilliam Museum

    This representative selection of exhibits introduces the main themes of the exhibition 'I Turned it into a Palace: Sir Sydney Cockerell and the Fitzwilliam Museum' (The Fitzwilliam Museum, 4 November 2008 - 17 March 2009).

  • Whistler prints in The Fitzwilliam Museum

    This online exhibition forms a survey of the Fitzwilliam Museum's collection of etchings, drypoints and lithographs by the American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903).

  • Christopher Le Brun - 50 Etchings 2005

    This online exhibition was created on the occasion of the first display of this portfolio at the Fitzwilliam Museum in 2008 (20 May to 28 September).

  • Passport to the Egyptian Afterlife. The Book of the Dead of Ramose

    These webpages provide in-depth information about the beautifully illustrated papyrus containing the Book of the Dead of Ramose, displayed at the Fitzwilliam Musem from 19 June to 16 September 2007.

  • Vive la différence! The English and French stereotype in satirical prints, 1720-1815

    The English and French stereotype in satirical prints, 1720-1815

  • Frank Auerbach. Etchings & drypoints 1954-2006

    This online exhibition has been mounted to complement the Fitzwilliam's show of Frank Auerbach's etchings and drypoints 1954 - 2006, from 6 March - 10 June 2007.

  • Music from The Blue Bird

    From this site, you can listen to, or download, the piano accompaniment for four dance sequences from The Blue Bird, performed by Fiona Cox

  • The Cambridge Illuminations: virtual exhibition

    This is a representative selection of images from some of the most sumptuous manuscripts displayed in the Cambridge Illuminations exhibition (Fitzwilliam Museum, 26 July - 30 December 2005). Offering a foretaste of the exhibits, it presents an opportunity to browse through the thematic sections of the exhibition, to view the work of outstanding medieval and Renaissance artists, and to admire the commissions of the most discriminating patrons of learning and art.

  • The Macclesfield Psalter

    The Macclesfield Psalter is a work of art of exceptional beauty. Its 250 leaves are painted with exquisite finesse, page after page of precious pigments and gold. It is an outstanding example of medieval art from East Anglia, which boasted the most characteristically English school of painting and illumination during the fourteenth century.

  • Yoshitoshi online exhibition

    This online exhibition features the collection of superb impressions of woodcut prints by Yoshitoshi acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum in 2003 with the help of the National Art Collections Fund. 

  • French Impressionists

    The collection of works by French Impressionist painters in the Fitzwilliam Museum – some hundred and more paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures – is one of the finest in the UK.

  • Illuminating the Law: Medieval Manuscripts

    Drawing on the treasures of Cambridge collections, supplemented by three manuscripts from a unique and very important set at Durham Cathedral Library, ILLUMINATING THE LAW includes superb examples of Italian, French, and English illumination spanning four centuries, from twelfth-century copies of Gratian’s Decretum to fifteenth-century guild statutes.

  • John Linnell Archive

    John Linnell was one of the most highly regarded and successful artists of his day and formed an impressive network of connections.The Fitzwilliam Museum was able to acquire his archive in 2000. Regarded as of national importance, the purchase was made possible with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, together with contributions from the Friends of National Libraries, the Pilgrim Trust and the Charlotte Bonham-Carter Charitable Trust.

  • Kunisada and Kabuki

    Enjoy your tour of the Fitzwilliam Museum Kunisada and Kabuki virtual exhibition

  • J.W. Clarke and The Care of Books

    Photographs of medieval English and continental libraries by John Willis Clark for his 1901 publication "The Care of Books"