Leeds Discovery Centre Now Open For Tours Of Museum Collections In Storage

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 30 July 2007
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photo of a large block-like modern building

The brand new Discovery Centre. © Buro Happold/Angus McDonald

One of the foremost museum collection stores in the UK is now up and running and open for tours in Leeds.

Titled the Discovery Centre, the custom built building near to Clarence Dock now houses the million objects that form the city’s museum collection. Only about five per cent of all the items in the collection are on display at any one time in the museums themselves.

But now, the public can book a tour or appointment to see the other 95 per cent of the cache, which ranges from the everyday to the amazing, all held in the environmentally controlled £6m Discovery Centre.

More than two-thirds of the funding (£4.5m) came from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“The Leeds Discovery Centre will help open up Leeds City Museums' resources – which include items relating to the city’s fascinating history – to a much wider audience, showing people how relevant they are to our understanding of modern-day life,” said Fiona Spiers, Heritage Lottery Fund regional manager for Yorkshire & The Humber.

“This is a wonderful example of how the past can be opened up to the present, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund money, to create an innovative project which can be enjoyed by everyone.”

photo of an old rocking horse and other artefacts

Objects in the store. Courtesy Leeds City Council

The cache of collections housed in the Discovery Centre cover seven main areas.

Insects, mammals, birds, shells, minerals and fossils are to be found in the Natural Sciences section, while the Social History area has items that tell tales about lifestyles of the past. Objects from this collection include everything from washing machines and mangles to scooters, toys and buttons.

The history of societies around the world is represented in the World Cultures section, with domestic items, weapons and even sculpture and other artefacts. Light is thrown on the ancient cultures of Greece, Egypt and Leeds itself in the Archaeology collection.

An important aspect of all cultures' clothing dating back to the 17th century is explored in the Costume and Textiles department.

Those military staples, Firearms and Armour, have a considerable section devoted to them, as do the Coins and Medals.

Part of the Yorkshire Post’s photographic archive, featuring mostly portraiture, is also at the Discovery Centre.

Prior to the completion of the Centre, most of these collections were held at Sovereign Street and Yeadon. The new Centre offers much easier access for academics, researchers and the public, enabling the items to be used rather than gathering dust.

Alongside conserving collections, the Discovery Centre provides learning and education facilities and events for school groups and parties.

Staff are now busily preparing for the Centre’s involvement in September’s Heritage Open Days.

For further information, or to book a tour, email discovery.centre@leeds.gov.uk or call 0113 214 1548.

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