Great North Museum: Hancock

Great North Museum: Hancock
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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.

Venue Type:

Museum, Library

Opening hours

Monday to Friday: 10am - 5pm
Saturdays: 10am - 4pm
Sundays: 11am - 4pm

Admission charges

Free (donations welcome)

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.

Collection details

Archaeology, Archives, Fine Art, Natural Sciences, World Cultures

Key artists and exhibits

  • Thomas Bewick
  • Professor George Brady
  • Thomas Atthey
  • Albany Hancock

Great North Museum: Hancock
Barras Bridge
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear




0191 208 6765


18001 0191 208 6765

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.