Location: Great North Museum, Barras Bridge, NE2 4PT
Walk up Claremont Road and you’ll see the Great North (formerly Hancock) Museum on your right, which is North East England’s natural history museum, and just the place for all manner of wonders from the natural world and the odd Egyptian mummy or two.
The Hancock Museum was closed on 23 April 2006 for refurbishment and did not reopen until 23 May 2009. It was completely refurbished and extended as part of the Great North Museum Project, at a cost of £26 million. The new museum includes new displays on natural history and geology, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, Romans and Hadrian’s Wall, World Cultures and Pre-history. It also includes an interactive study zone, an under 5’s space, and a digital Planetarium, as well as new learning facilities, a new temporary exhibition space, and a study garden.
The museum opened on its current site in 1884 after the collection of the Natural History Society outgrew its small museum, located on Westgate Road, which opened in 1834. A major benefactor to the museum was William Armstrong who gave the then large sum of £11,500. Armstrong had also founded the College of Physical Science which later became part of Newcastle University. The museum was renamed in the 1890s, after the local Victorian naturalists, Albany and John Hancock.
In 1959 the Natural History Society agreed with the University of Newcastle for the University to care for the building and collections, and since 1992 the University has contracted with Tyne & Wear Museums to manage the Museum under a Service Level Agreement.