An armillary helicentric planetarium in Admiral at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire

Art & collections

Portrait of Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples / Attingham Park

Europe & us in 99 historic objects 

In this year when our political relationship with the continent has been so hotly debated, we have put together a selection of items from our vast collections that help examine our nation’s rich and ancient cultural connections to our neighbours. Every weekday we’ll be highlighting a new item to discover what story it has to tell.

Bettany Hughes at Avebury for the podcast recording

Bettany Hughes's Ten Places, Europe and Us podcast series 

Join historian Bettany Hughes as she travels around some of the most splendid sites in England, guided by our experts, to investigate their deep-rooted connections to Europe and the wider world.

Exhibition highlights

Garniture of Chinese porcelain jars and vases / The Argory, County Armagh

'Vase madness' at the V & A 

We look after the world’s largest collection of vase sets. Also known as ‘garnitures’, 15 of our most remarkable vase sets are brought together in a major display at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Dress conservators preparing Ellen Terry beetle wing dress for display at Smallhythe Place, Kent.

If clothes could talk... 

Why were Marie Antoinette’s garters designed by a dentist? Why was a 19th-century lord determined to make a coat in a day? And why did dressmakers painstakingly sew jewel beetles’ wings onto a costume for Lady Macbeth?

Close up of the wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg House, Norfolk

The hidden meaning in Chinese design at our places 

Did you know that peonies, pine trees and plums symbolise specific wishes and feelings in oriental design? Discover the unexpected meanings of the intertwining birds and flowers on 'chinoiserie' wallpaper, vases and textiles.

A Meissen porcelain figure of the Lady of the Order of the Pug, Fenton House

Best in show: ceramic highlights from our collections 

Our ceramics collection is vast. Discover some of our highlights including an early Ming dish that once formed part of a Mughal treasury, an exquisite Japanese porcelain bowl that is also a rare relic of the Stuart court in exile and a beautifully painted dish signed by a Renaissance master.

Recent acquisitions and loans

Explore our collections

The majority of objects in our care are recorded in our online database. You'll find many intriguing items to explore at places near you