Opened in 1829, the Rotunda is one of the earliest purpose-built museums in the world. The building’s design, by Richard Hey Sharp, was based on a specification put forward by William Smith, known as the ‘father of English Geology’. The building first housed and displayed fossil and mineral collections; by the end of the nineteenth century it had become a natural history museum and by the 1950s it was also home to local social history collections. In 1952, the Scarborough Corporation opened a Museum of Natural History at Woodend, former home of the Sitwell family, and relocated all the geology and natural history to this new museum. The Rotunda re-opened in May 2008 after a two year restoration and re-display programme as ‘The Rotunda: the William Smith Museum of Geology’.
The Art Gallery, an Italianate villa built in the 1840s as a family home by the Borough’s solicitor, John Uppleby, was purchased by the Borough Council in 1942 and opened as a public art gallery in 1947. It had formerly been a private residence and a local hospital. The gallery houses a permanent collection built up since the 1940s through gifts, bequests and purchases, including a substantial founding collection donated by Tom Laughton, a local hotelier and patron of the arts. The lower ground floor of the Gallery building is currently occupied by Crescent Arts, an ACE National Portfolio Organisation.