Help us care for and share some of the most significant collections in Cornwall with an annual membership. Find Out More

The UK’s Greatest Museum for Cornish Art and Culture | Free For Under 18s

Royal Cornwall Museum

Our Transformation

Change is a-foot at Royal Cornwall Museum!

From January 2024 we begin the exciting project of transforming the building and home to our 200-year-old institution and more than one million artefacts.

From the top to the bottom we’re working on improving the accessibility of our spaces, fixing the building to secure our collections and updating our exhibitions to make them more engaging for our visitors.

So how does a 200-year-old institution go about such a change?

Royal Cornwall Museum was founded in 1818 by the Royal Institution of Cornwall. The Royal Institution of Cornwall had an educational purpose, with the objective ‘to advance the education of the public by encouraging and promoting the study and knowledge of literature, natural sciences, archaeology, history, ethnology, geology and the fine and applied arts, with special reference to Cornwall’.

Creating a museum meant the institution had a physical space where people had the opportunity to engage with its purpose.

Opening ceremony of the Royal Cornwall Museum, River Street, Truro, Cornwall. 11th June 1919

Opening ceremony of the Royal Cornwall Museum, River Street, Truro, Cornwall. 11th June 1919

The museum’s current building began its life as the Truro Savings Bank, before becoming the Henderson’s Mining School and, finally, the home of Royal Cornwall Museum. By 1987, the museum had also acquired the neighbouring building, Truro Baptist Chapel. Together these buildings, designed by local architect Philip Sambell, form an impressive museum front.

During this time, the museum was known at various points as Cornwall County Museum and Truro Museum before it was named Royal Cornwall Museum. It is in fact the Royal Institution of Cornwall that was given Royal patronage, but the museum assumed the ‘Royal’ name also.

Change is expected in 200 years, and with an aging building in need of repairs we’re excited to take this moment to improve the experience for our visitors and maintain the Royal Cornwall Museum as a centre for exploration and learning.

Royal Cornwall Museum as seen from above, December 2023

Fixing the leaks

To protect our amazing collections we need to make sure our building is as secure as possible. We have had challenges with the roof for a number of years, with the museum even closing in 2020 due to the severity of the problem. Our transformation therefore begins first and foremost with extensive upgrades to the roof across the whole building.

In the late spring/summer of 2024 we’ll be putting scaffolding up to start work on the roof, but don’t worry, we’ll still be open!

Breaking down barriers

Whether just walking past our beautiful building or as a regular visitor to our museum, you might have noticed the wall that forms a barrier between the street and our entrance. As an accessible organisation, we’re updating the entrance to improve both the physical accessibility of the museum, and ensuring that it’s visually accessible, so that anyone and everyone feel welcome in our spaces.

Minerals for more people: The Rashleigh Mineral Gallery

Royal Cornwall Museum’s Mineral Gallery has international significance, and this important collection is deserving of an upgrade so we can share knowledge and understanding of Cornish mining and minerals with more people.

The Rashleigh Mineral Gallery, 2023

We know how much our visitors love the Mineral Gallery, so we’re not planning to completely change how it feels. Instead, we’re going to make the exhibition and space more accessible both to visitors in the museum and beyond. In addition, a digital element to the exhibition will mean people from further afield can engage with the collection and also be used for school learning activities.

The Mineral Gallery is the first exhibition space in the museum to undergo an upgrade. The space will close in January 2024, and re-open in the summer of 2024. Some of the collection will remain on display in the Spotlight Gallery.

Connecting children and nature: The Bonython Nature Gallery

The Nature Gallery is a wonderful space for children and families and is in need of updating and improvement. It’s a vitally important exhibition as the need to connect people with nature and the environment becomes even more critical.

We are working with Cornwall Wildlife Trust to renovate this exhibition during autumn 2024, and it will reopen in 2025.

The Heart of Cornwall: The Main Gallery

The Main Gallery, where the history of Cornwall is told within the museum, welcomes visitors with its beautiful architecture. In this space we share artefacts relating to Cornwall’s heritage and culture and our plan is to re-shape this exhibition so we can tell different and exciting stories about Cornwall’s history.

Renovations to the main gallery will begin in the autumn 2024.

2025 Onwards

A final phase of the transformation works will take in the upper floor galleries, making improvements to their look and feel and representing a wider range of our collections. We will create better access with a new lift and secondary stairs which will create a circular route for visitors.

Our goal is ensure that these improvements protect our collections and institution, so future generations can continue to learn, explore and visit us for another 200 years (and more!).

Summer Soiree fun, 2023

Stay up-to-date

Follow our transformation journey with updates straight to your inbox! Click here to subscribe now.

Thank you to our funders

The transformation of the Royal Cornwall Museum wouldn’t be possible without the belief, support and funding of a number of organisations.

Cornwall Council

This project is part-funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Cornwall Council has been chosen by Government as a Lead Authority for the fund and is responsible for monitoring the progress of projects funded through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.”

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK by investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. For more information, visit

Truro Town Deal

This project is part funded by the UK Government’s Town Deal programme in partnership with Truro Town Deal Board and Cornwall Council. Cornwall Council is the Lead Authority for the Town Deals in Cornwall and supports the governance role of the Board and administrates the Fund. For more information on the Town Deal visit:

Arts Council England

Arts Council England Museum Estate and Development Fund, which is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to address the infrastructure and urgent maintenance needs of the Museum sector.