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British Empire and Commonwealth Museum
Bristol Temple Meads old station frontage (750px).jpg
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Established 2002
Dissolved 2013
Location Bristol

The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum was a museum in Bristol, United Kingdom exploring the history of the British Empire and the effect of British colonial rule on the rest of the world. The museum opened in 2002 and entered voluntary liquidation in 2013.

The museum opened in 2002 in Bristol's historic old railway station, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, following renovation and conversion costing £8 million. It was completed in 1840 and includes the passenger shed and the adjoining former engine and carriage shed. It is over 220 ft long (67 m) with timber and iron roof spans of 72 ft (22 m), this Grade I listed building has been nominated as part of a World Heritage Site.

The museum had a flourishing publications department, producing books on aspects of colonial life such as the history of the Northern Rhodesia Police, and a register of titles of the regiments of the Honourable East India Company and East Indian Armies. The museum also held the collection of artefacts of the Commonwealth Institute; extensive photograph stills, paper, film and oral history archives, and a costume collection. These are now in the care of Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives (apart from loans which were returned to their owners).

The museum was also the home of the New World Tapestry.

Unlike many national museums in Britain, the BECM was not publicly funded, but owned and operated by a charitable trust; consequently an admission charge was in place.

Breaking the Chains

The museum's Breaking the Chains exhibition, funded by a £1m Heritage Lottery grant to mark the 200-year anniversary abolition of the British Transatlantic Slave Trade by the Slave Trade Act 1807, was shortlisted for the Art Fund Prize.


After the closure of the museum the collections were given to Bristol City Council to care for, with the objects under the care of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and the archive collections (including papers, books, photographic, film and sound) under the care of Bristol Archives. Since 2014 Bristol Archives have worked to catalogue some of the photographic and film collections, digitise them and make them available for public use.

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