In 1849 the Literary and Philosophical Society presented its various collections to the city of Leicester, founding the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, and since 2020 called Leicester Museum & Art Gallery and part of Leicester Arts and Museums Service, was one of the first public museums in the UK. There are galleries that include Dinosaurs, Wild Space, Life and Death in Ancient Egypt, Victorian art and Arts and Crafts, Picasso Ceramics, The Attenborough Collection and modern and contemporary art displays. The Our World Through Art galleries display a regularly changing selection of work from the museum's permanent collection.
The museum is home to the largest collection of German Expressionist art outside Germany. In 1944 Trevor Thomas (1907-1993), director of the museum, curated an exhibition that drew upon the collections of recent émigrés, Alfred Hess and the art historian, Dr Rosa Schapire. Following that exhibition, the museum purchased a number of works by the artists Franz Marc, Emil Nolde and Max Pechstein. In 1975 the acquisition of modern German art was permanently written into the museum’s collecting policy.
Other themes within the collection range from works of the Old Masters to a selection of prints by Albrecht Dürer. There are a number of 20th-century pieces by Walter Sickert, Stanley Spencer and Francis Bacon. Most recently Leicester has acquired film work by Rosalind Nashashibi, The State of Things, 2000 through the Contemporary Art Society's acquisitions scheme for New Walk Museum and Art Gallery. It also exhibits a diverse mix of ceramics and decorative objects from across the globe.