The Cottonian Collection is housed in a gallery on the first floor of the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery. The collection was exhibited in its current arrangement as part of a major programme of redecoration and gallery re-displays in the early 1990s.
The gallery space has been arranged to provide display areas for each element of the collection. At the entrance is the portrait of Charles Rogers FRS FSA (1711 to 1784) and close by the portrait of William Cotton MA FSA (1794 to 1863) of Ivybridge, donor of the collection to the City of Plymouth in 1863. Close-by there is a display case of catalogues and copies of some other archival material relating to the origins, ownership and custodianship of the collection.
Also in this area of the gallery is a selection of drawings and watercolours, which changes periodically, along with other framed prints. There are two glazed cases, one displaying one of the large print volumes, the other the collection of bronzes. Beyond this is an area devoted to Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA (1723 to 1792), a Plymouth artist, which includes all the family portraits, the marble bust and a case with his palette, sticks and other related material. This is bordered by a recessed area containing a number of miscellaneous prints in a series of swing frames, with the collection of plasters standing on top.
A large part of the gallery is devoted to the Library containing the main bookcases and an exhibition case with a selection of some of the more important and early books, including the Books of Hours. Interspersed between the bookcases are the paintings and furniture.