Treasures from All over World on Our Doorstep; EXHIBITIONS

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Byline: PHILIP KEY

IT HAS to be one of the greatest free shows on earth.Liverpool's dazzling collection of museums and galleries boast the world's riches in art and artefacts.

Be it a Turner painting,an Egyptian mummy or an item of smuggling equipment, you will find it in one of the many museums and galleries in the city.

And they all have free entry.

There are beautiful museums on the waterfront,impressive galleries in the city centre and galleries hidden away in the suburbs.

Liverpool's museums a reamong Britain's finest - with new features on the way - and the galleries stock the most significant art collections outside of London.

Along with the big public galleries there are smaller private ones tucked away amid the city's shoppingcentre,galleries that show the best contemporary work.

It was the Victorians who brought private collections to the public.

LIVERPOOL MUSEUM in William Brown Street was founded in 1851 and covers everything from Roman remains to outer space.

If you thought museums were dusty places full of broken pottery under glass cases, a visit to Liverpool Museum will make you think again.

Of course such museums did start with glass cases - and they are still there - but museum culture has moved on.

There is a natural history centre with creatures from across the world, a special ceramic gallery displaying works from the city's own potteries and re-creations of the rainforests. There is a planetarium (for which there is a small charge) and items from lost civilisations.

Currently the museum is being transformed with expanded galleries and improved facilities including new features like the bug house and treasure house. Work is due for completion in Spring 2005.

Next door in William Brown Street stands the WALKER ART GALLERY, opened in 1877 and containing an internationally important collection, ranging from 14thCentury art to the present. It is especially rich in European Old Masters,Victorian and PreRaphaelite pictures.

It too has been refurbished with new galleries and the older galleries improved with luxurious settings.

The Walker is the host every other year to the John Moores Exhibition, a competition for contemporary artists which regularly attracts some of the country's finest. Just as regularly, the competition established in 1957 attracts controversy. In 1978, one of the prize winners titled Untitled No.9 was a blank-looking white canvas.``It is a study of various shades of white,''explained the artist,William Turnbull.

One of the newest galleries is the CONSERVATION CENTRE in Whitechapel, unique in presenting the work of museum conservators to the public with interactive displays and demonstrations. The Cafe Eros also displays the Eros statue from Sefton Park. Currently on display is Shooting Stars, a celebrity retrospective by Daily Post picture editor Stephen Shakeshaft.

At Albert Dock is the MERSEY-SIDE MARITIME MUSEUM which follows the history of the merchant navy and shipping from the 13thCentury. …