The Lapworth Museum of Geolog y
Birmingham Founded in 1880 Number of annual visitors: 50,000
Why it should win Home to possibly the most important natural-history collection in any UK museum aside from the nationals, the Lapworth has more than 250,000 specimens of fossils, rocks and minerals. After an 18-month closure and a £2.7 million redevelopment – nearly doubling the museum in size and adding two entirely new galleries – it reopened in June last year, and since then visitor figures have doubled. Historically its audience had been primarily specialist and academic, but it is now a key public museum.
Must-see It holds a collection of more than 1,200 mineral specimens that belonged to William Murdoch, a brilliant engineer who invented a steam-driven carriage and was a pioneer of gas lighting. The museum also houses his desk and an 1826 inventory of his collection. Quirkiest exhibit On display are dinosaur eggs, skulls, teeth and limb bones, plus the footprint of an iguanodon.