History of Coventry Transport Museum
Coventry Transport Museum opened in 1980, after it became clear that the road transport collection was outgrowing the space it occupied in the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. The Museum’s current collection of vehicles is acknowledged as being one of the finest in the world, and the largest in public ownership.
The first exhibits were acquired in 1937 when Samuel Bartleet gifted the City of Coventry his own private collection of cycles. The first motor cars were added to the collection in 1952, and the collection has continued to grow ever since.
The first major public exhibitions began in 1960 with the official opening of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. As the transport collection grew, the vehicles were housed in a number of local sites, eventually settling at their present location in 1980.
The Museum’s collection consists of motor cars, commercial vehicles, cycles and motorcycles. In addition, extensive collections of automobilia, books, photographs and a wealth of other archive material is held and conserved at the Coventry History Centre at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. Most of the collection exists through the outstanding generosity of individual donors.
A New Era - the 2014/5 Redevelopment Project
A world-class collection deserves a world-class museum in which to display it, and by the time the Coventry Transport Museum’s 30th anniversary came around, the exhibitions which had been loved by millions of visitors were in need of a refresh and revitalise. But this wasn’t just about a cosmetic upgrade – rather it was a fundamental re-imagining of how to tell Coventry’s transport story in a coherent, accessible and contemporary way.
The museum team wanted to make sure that as well as being wowed by the unique exhibits on display, visitors would also come away with a real understanding of the fascinating and vital human story of the city, and how this is inextricably tied up in the story of Coventry’s transport industry.
A vision for a ‘new’ museum that set out to achieve these ambitious aims, evolved over a number of years. The project was to be combined with the refurbishment of the museum’s neighbouring 12th Century ‘Old Grammar School’ which had been practically derelict for almost four decades, and the overarching aim was to create world-class visitor attractions that would bring people from far and wide to find out more about Coventry’s fabulous heritage, as well as offering opportunities for local people to get involved in a wide range of activities.
After serious efforts from the museum team, funding totalling £9m was attracted from the European Regional Development Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Biffa Award and Garfield Weston.
Work began on the redevelopment in April 2014, with an ambitious programme of works scheduled to be completed in just 13 months – whilst the museum remained open to visitors almost continuously throughout. Work was completed in June 2015 and a grand relaunch was held, attracting media attention from around the world, and marking the start of an exciting new era for the UK’s favourite car museum.