About M Shed
M Shed is a museum on Bristol’s harbourside, which tells the story of the city’s development from medieval port to modern day urban hub.
History of M Shed
Bristol’s Wapping Wharf has long been an important part of the city’s maritime activities. Cargo sheds have lined the quayside for centuries – many of these were destroyed during the Blitz. After the war, the local authority invested in rebuilding the area, but as dockyard commerce declined during the 1950s and 60s, the huge warehouses became redundant.
The ‘L’ and ‘M’ sheds were given over to the Bristol Industrial Museum, which eventually closed in 2006, and a £27 million regeneration project to convert the space into a new museum began.
M Shed opened in 2011 in the quayside: four 1950s cargo cranes are on the quayside outside, reminding visitors of the city’s industrial heritage.
M Shed today
M Shed tells the story of Bristol’s history through three strands: Bristol life, Bristol people and Bristol places, and has about 3,000 pieces on display at any one time.
Bristol people covers the city’s involvement as a hub in the Transatlantic slave trade, and how that legacy leaves its mark today: some of the exhibition is quite harrowing, and be sure to look out for Tony Forbes’ Sold Down the River. The Bristolian artist captures some of the difficulties of a progressive, liberal city struggling with racial and class divides that leave their mark to this day.
The exhibition on the Bristol Bus Boycott is also notable, and well worth spending time over. Whilst not that well known in British history, it remains an important moment for race relations and is credited with helping legislation over racial discrimination over the line in Parliament.
There are also pieces from Aardman Animations (the creators of Wallace and Gromit), who are Bristol based, as well as nods to Bristol’s music heritage, including the likes of Massive Attack, and Bristol’s most famous artist, Banksy – look out for the display on his iconic 2009 exhibition, Banksy vs Bristol Museum.
Cranes, trains and boats can be found on the quayside outside: these are occasionally operative, so look out for them at weekends.
Getting to M Shed
M Shed is located on Bristol’s harbourside, beside Wapping Wharf. Entry is free, and it’s easily accessed on foot from the city centre or Bristol Temple Meads. There are bicycle racks should you wish to cycle.
Several buses stop at the nearby Wapping Wharf, and there is parking nearby, although it can be hard to find a space – M Shed is located about 2 miles off the M32.