The University Heritage Collection throws light on the University’s history and developing traditions. Objects range from the first key to the University, to the small Union Jack taken on the Challenger Space Mission in 1985, which carried a telescope built at the University into earth orbit. There is material relating to the World Wars, including a cloth embroidered by soldiers convalescing in the Great Hall when it was used as a military hospital, and shrapnel found by students after an air raid in 1940.
The precursor to the University of Birmingham as we know it today was Sir Josiah Mason’s Science College, first opened in 1880. Mason came from modest beginnings, which drove his desire to create a college which was ‘easily accessible to persons of all classes, even the humblest.’ The façade of the original building in Edmund Street was decorated with Mason’s crest and the carved heraldic shields, which are now installed outside the west entrance to the School of Law. Other architectural features, sculptures and fixtures and fittings across campus chart the University’s development since its inception and form a part of this collection.
The collection also includes artefacts that relate to the University’s manuscript and archive deposits, such as personal effects of Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Avon and Noel Coward.