Great North Museum: Hancock
Newcastle & Gateshead
Tyne and Wear
0191 222 6765
0191 222 6753
The Great North Museum incorporates collections from the Hancock Museum and Newcastle University’s Museum of Antiquities, the Shefton Museum and the Hatton Gallery.
Highlights of the £26million museum include a large-scale, interactive model of Hadrian's Wall, major new displays showing the wonder and diversity of the animal kingdom, spectacular objects from the Ancient Greeks and mummies from Ancient Egypt, a planetarium and a life-size T-Rex dinosaur replica skeleton.
The Living Planet display houses hundreds of creatures and by using a mixture of touch screen technology and hands-on investigations, visitors can investigate these animals and find out where they live and how they survive in such extreme places as the arctic and desert.
Live animal tanks and aquaria are integrated into this major display where visitors can see wolf fish, pythons and lizards to name a few. Star objects include a full size model of an elephant, a great white shark, a virtual aquarium, live animal displays, a polar bear, a giraffe and moa skeleton.
Open: Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 2pm-5pm
Closed: 25 & 26 December & 1 January.
Closed: Friday 29 April 2011
The Hancock collections represent an amalgamation of many hundreds of individual collections amassed by leading naturalists who worked not only in the North East but throughout the world, pioneering the development of natural history as a science in the 19th and 20th centuries. The collections continue to be actively used by researchers from all over the world. There is research material of international significance within all parts of the collection and this provides an irreplaceable tool by which biological and geological principles such as taxonomy, variation, speciation, geographical distribution, evolution and typology can be studied.
In addition, the Hancock Museum library houses, amongst its extensive archives, one of the largest collections in the world of the watercolours and engravings of the world-renowned, Newcastle born 18th century artist and engraver Thomas Bewick. His works, particularly the engravings featured in History of British Birds and A General History of Quadrupeds, have attracted international interest. He is regarded as the "father of wood engraving" and the success of his technique led to it becoming the most popular form of book illustration for most of the 19th century. A selection of Bewick's work is on display in the Museum in The Bewick Shrine.
The collections reflect the Museum's historic specialisation in the Natural Sciences. The collections number well over half-a-million items, and these include over 1,000 type specimens. A type specimen is the original specimen from which a new species was named. In international terms, the most important collections are the freshwater and marine crustaceans collected by Professor George Brady, and the Carboniferous vertebrate fossils collected by Thomas Atthey and Albany Hancock, some of which can be seen in the Earthworks gallery. Both collections are consulted extensively by researchers from all over the world.
In addition to these collections, the Museum owns an important collection of early vertebrate material as well as historical ethnographic material, some of which is traceable back to the voyages of Captain James Cook. Some of the ethnography collections can be seen in the World of Difference display.
When looking around the Museum you will see a wide range of collections and some truly wonderful objects including the huge fossil tree from Weardale, the giant Spider Crab, the Sea Dragon or Ichthyosaur from Whitby, the skeleton of a Moa, the animals in Abel's Ark and the vast collection of birds including extinct species such as the Great Auk, Passenger Pigeon and Dodo... and not forgetting Sparky Williams, the internationally famous talking budgerigar. Sparky died over 40 years ago but he is preserved in the Museum and visitors can hear some of his recordings.
The Hancock also possesses small collections of archaeological material, most importantly, Egyptology. Although not numerous, these collections do contain some important material, including two New Kingdom mummies which can be seen in the Land of the Pharaohs gallery. One of these, Bakt-hor-nekht, remains wrapped, and has been the subject of extensive research, including pioneering CAT- scanning work in 1991.
Archaeology, Archives, Fine Art, Natural Sciences, World Cultures
Key artists and exhibits
- Thomas Bewick
- Professor George Brady
- Thomas Atthey
- Albany Hancock
The Hancocks: Scientists in the Studio
A new exhibition ‘The Hancocks: Scientists in the Studio’ will be the first display of its kind to explain the name above the Great North Museum: Hancock door by introducing the people of the North East to John, Albany and Mary Jane Hancock.
A group of British and international masters students from Newcastle University’s Museum Studies programme have worked with the Great North Museum: Hancock and the Natural History Society of Northumbria on this project that will be launched in the Living Planet Gallery of the Great North Museum: Hancock on the 23rd April and will run for four weeks.
Visitors will discover the stories of the ‘father of taxidermy’, John Hancock
one of the founders of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, Albany Hancock
and their sister, the botanist and artist, Mary Jane Hancock. The students hope visitors follow the Hancocks’ example and explore the beauty of the natural world and appreciate that the marriage of art and science is a vital and exciting concept today.
The exhibition will include rare pieces of taxidermy by John Hancock - including the extinct Huia Bird from New Zealand - in addition to specimens and drawings by Albany Hancock and beautiful watercolours by Mary Jane.
The students are also developing social media platforms to support the physical exhibition and permit wider access to the Hancocks’ history. A Tumblr page will offer visitors access to unseen material, such as Albany Hancock’s artworks and correspondence with Charles Darwin. Visitors will also have the opportunity to write comments and upload their own content. Twitter accounts are also being developed for ‘John Hancock’ and ‘Albany Hancock’ so the public can interact directly with the characters they encounter at the exhibition in a fun and easy way.
This project forms part of a series of collaborative hands-on heritage projects developed by the Museum Studies students of the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, with the support of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums and other cultural organisations in the North East. They provided budding museum professionals with the opportunity to develop their skills and expertise and improve their chances of obtaining jobs in the museum, gallery and heritage sector.