Imagine That! Tyne And Wear Collections Go Online

By Caroline Lewis | 23 September 2004
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Shows a picture of the Imagine homepage, which has a menu and a large picture of a butterfly.

What will you search for today? Sifting through the enormous Tyne & Wear Museum collections is fun and easy on IMAGINE.

Johnny Ball has helped to launch a terrific new website, which allow users to access 15,000 images of objects and paintings from museums and galleries in the North East.

The TV personality, famous for presenting educational programmes (as well as being Zoe’s dad), tested out IMAGINE (Images, Museums and Galleries In the North East) at the Laing Gallery in Newcastle on September 23.

IMAGINE lets users virtually enter 11 museums in Tyne & Wear, and search for objects relating to archaeology, art and natural history. The online museum contains not only items that are on display in the museums, but also many more that are kept in the vaults.

Shows a purple web page with pictures of jewels and a large ring. The Jewellery Trail is written on the page.

History trails aren't just for the 24 Hour Museum. Learn about historical jewellery from the comfort of your computer desk with one of the special adventures on IMAGINE.

Alec Coles, director of Tyne & Wear Museums, said: “IMAGINE provides instant access to rare, fantastic and, of course, everyday objects.

“By using Tyne & Wear Museum’s collections the IMAGINE website will bring the evidence of the North East’s culture and identity into homes, offices and schools across the world at the touch of a button,” he continued.

So, visiting in person is no longer necessary to see maritime artefacts from the Discovery Museum, paintings from the Laing Gallery and stuffed animals from the Hancock Museum (though still thoroughly recommended!). Images of objects and paintings from Sunderland Museum, the Shipley Art Gallery, and from key World Heritage Collections at Roman Forts Arbeia and Segedunum are also available to explore.

Shows a webpage with a photo of a North African style cap on the left and some information on the right.

Letting IMAGINE do the search for you comes up with some very interesting results, like this Nigerian cap made from grass!

The website is brilliantly user-friendly, with the option of zooming in on images so that every detail of an artefact can be studied. See the feather structure of a turtle dove from the Hancock collection or examine brushstrokes on a Canaletto from the Shipley!

The search facility lets users be as specific or as general as they like, with the unusual bonus of being able to sketch the object to be searched for instead of using words, while an interactive adventure section provides a really fun way to explore and learn about things like Egyptian jewellery and 1930s family life.

As in a museum, there is also the option to browse leisurely – just ask the website to display objects at random to learn about unexpected crafts, vessels and stone tablets.

Features to make the website accessible for everyone are also included, such as British Sign Language introductions.

Run wild at, which has been made possible by the Big Lottery Fund.

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