Mermen To Polar Bears - Museum Of Curiosities Tours North East

By Alastair Smith | 14 March 2005
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shows a photo of a strange skeletal creature, part fish, part monkey. Is it real? You will have to see the exhibition to decide.

Part monkey, part fish, this fella is Victorian in origin and normally resides at the Museum of Hartlepool.

Shoppers in Redcar will soon be greeted with the unfamiliar sight of a merman on their high street as Hartlepool Museums Service opens the doors to its Curiosity Shop.

Part monkey, part fish, the unusual creature is just one object from a weird and wonderful collection, which will be set up in a series of empty shops across the region, beginning with Redcar on Saturday March 19 2005.

Curiosities, including a furry fish, a polar bear and the world's smallest cat and dog, will be on display as the museum moves from Redcar to Stockton, Hartlepool, Darlington and Middlesbrough.

shows an old style gas mask being worn by a person who is also wearing a steel helmet

A more familiar sight, but one of the many items that will be on show at the Curiosity Shop.

"The Curiosity Shop is like a bizarre blend of Changing Rooms and Antiques Roadshow," explained Mark Simmons, Audience Development Manager for Hartlepool Arts and Museums.

"We take an empty shop in a town centre and in less than two weeks turn it into an exciting place where you can see some of the unusual and wonderful objects from our local museum."

Led by Hartlepool Museums Service, the project is a partnership between 12 of the region’s museums and galleries including Kirkleatham Museum, RNLI Zetland Lifeboat Museum, Billingham Art Gallery, Green Dragon Yard Museum, Preston Hall Museum, Darlington Railway Centre and Museum, Hartlepool Art Gallery and the Museum of Hartlepool, Guisborough Museum, the Ironstone Mining Museum, the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, and the Dorman Museum.

"Our aim is to help people find out about all the fun things they can see and do at their local museum," said Mark Simmons.

shows the curiosity shop logo.

Coming to a high street near you - if you live in the Hartlepool area that is.

The mobile institution celebrates the tradition of ‘cabinets of curiosity’ - collections of rare and unusual items, often assembled by nobility and wealthy merchants in the 18th and 19th centuries though the practice of collecting natural history specimens began among doctors and pharmacists in the 16th century.

A desire to display these collections to the public led to the birth of museums as we know them today.

The Curiosity Ship is funded by Renaissance in the Regions, a Government-funded scheme to create new ways for people to enjoy their local museums.

shows a photo of a train model in a lightbulb.

You've heard of a ship in a bottle, but what about a train in a light bulb?

Admission to the Curiosity Shop is free and it's open in Redcar at 74, High Street six days a week from 10.00am to 5.00pm until Saturday April 23 2005. From there it will move on to Stockton Town Centre (May 9 – June 18), Hartlepool Town Centre (July 4 – August 31), Darlington Town Centre (to be confirmed) and Middlesbrough Town Centre (to be confirmed).

Alastair Smith is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the North East region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

Shows the Renaissance in the Regions logo.

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