Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle
The Hancock Museum, a Grade II* listed building, was first opened to the public in 1884 and quickly became Newcastle’s best-known and best-loved museum. By 2004, the building was in need of major refurbishment if it was to function effectively as a 21st century museum.
In 2004, Newcastle University, joined forces with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, the Natural History Society of Northumbria, the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne and Newcastle City Council in a partnership project to transform the display, interpretation and storage of their nationally important shared collections.
The project has transformed the Hancock building. A new extension provides a spectacular temporary exhibition and events space, a learning suite, café, study garden, and library facility. The stunning exhibition space meets international standards for environmental control and security, and physical and intellectual access have been increased immeasurably. The project has succeeded both in restoring the Victorian splendour of the building and in creating a fascinating and legible museum for the 21st century.
Bringing together three major collections, amassed over the last 250 years, has enabled the Museum to develop inter-related interpretation exploring, for example, the relationship of natural history and archaeological collections to the regional landscape, and the impact of humans upon it. Interactive exhibits and innovative use of ICT and projection technology are used throughout to highlight the collections and provide for a variety of learning styles and audiences.
The Museum also acts as a gateway to the archaeological and natural environment of the North East, signposting visitors to historic, wildlife and landscape sites.
Since opening on 23 May 2009, the Museum has attracted over 650,000 visitors.
Project cost: £26 million, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Newcastle City Council, Newcastle University, European Regional Development Fund, ONE North East and the Tyne and Wear Sub-Regional Partnership, and a wide variety of trusts, corporations and individuals.
Some of your comments:
I haven't visited a museum in over 15 years and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The Great North Museum captures local historical events alongside prehistoric wonders. The refurbishment gives the museum a clean fresh look that appeals to all. The interactive side also future proofs the museum. A great experience had by all.
The Hancock was a much loved but now drab and outdated museum. The planned changes worried many who loved it as one does an elderly if slightly dotty old aunt. Our worries have been groundless. Its transformation into the Great North Museum has been a fantastically successful. The imagination demonstrated in the development of the new displays which include old favourites and many new marvels is so impressive. They are stimulating and exciting for all ages. As a visitor, I am so impressed with the attention to detail and the level of care demonstrated in every part of the building from start to finish. It just excels; it has brought the museum back to life as a major visitor attraction for the city; it deserves the name: the Great North Museum.
It offers a depth of knowledge across a range of subjects which is fascinating and presented in ways that appeal to all ages. From grandchildren to grandparents it offers a day out to be remembered for a very long time afterwards. Children learn without realising they are doing so and seem to want to return again and again.
By bringing several collections from Natural History and Classical Antiquities together, and making them excitingly accessible, with excellent displays and 'hands-on' explorations and descriptors, the Great North Museum is proving outstandingly successful with families, children and many who never thought a 'museum' could be so attention-grabbing and relevant!
The Hancock Museum has always had a close relationship with its city and neighbouring communities. The Great North Museum/Hancock has capitalised on this by emphasizing the local stories, at the same time opening the formerly cluttered spaces to allow its spectacular collections to be enjoyed to the full, particularly, but not only, the natural history displays. The jaw-dropping juxtapositions of tropical mammals against giant fossils against Egyptian mummies are an unexpected bonus!
I really enjoyed all the sectors of the museum with my friends and family.
The Great North Museum was probably the one which needed the most modernisation and having seen it both before and after I think they have done a wonderful job and fully deserve to be considered to win the prize.
The buzz around the north east since the redevelopment of the formerly known as Hancock museum has been unbelievable. I work right next to the museum and to see the queues on its reopening was amazing, and visiting it myself with my 2 year old nephew was a great experience, not just for him but myself as well.
A true feast for the senses! Just 5 minutes away from the bustling shopping area in Newcastle, one can escape into a fascinating natural history "bubble" which is educative, imaginative and inspirational. The impressive collections contain many locally found artefacts that give a real sense of connection to the North East and make me want to explore the history and geography of the local area further. Set in such a beautifully restored old building, the contrast of ICT and interactive exhibits labels this as a traditional museum keeping pace with the times. As an adopted Geordie, I'm so pleased to be able show this off to my visiting friends (not to mention treat them to a little something in the café!). With something for everyone, young and old, the revamped Museum really does the North East - and Mr. Hancock himself - proud!