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Culture Awards 2009: Renaissance Museum Award

FOLLOWING a three-year, £27m transformation, the Great North Museum reopened its doors in May, to region-wide applause as a place of entertainment, education, discovery and visitor participation.

Winner: Great North Museum: Hancock

FOLLOWING a three-year, £27m transformation, the Great North Museum reopened its doors in May, to region-wide applause as a place of entertainment, education, discovery and visitor participation.

Housing 3,500 exhibits, it combines the collections of the Hancock Museum, the Museum of Antiquities and Shefton Greek Museum.

Its first weekend saw in excess of 10,000 people come through the doors – eager to be the first to take in the many galleries and exhibits, tracking the story of Earth from its place in the universe through ancient civilisations to natural history and life today.

Caireen Hart, communications officer at Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums, says: " In less than a year we have surpassed our annual visitor figure target of 300,000 with more than 700,000 visitors passing through.

"We have exceeded our expectations and while we knew it would be popular, we never anticipated numbers like this.

"We are busy planning an exciting exhibition programme for the coming years. It is fantastic to see that the museum has been recognised for its cultural contribution."

Finalist: Silver and Metals Gallery at The Bowes Museum

T@HE Bowes Museum set a shining example this spring, with its sparkling new Silver & Metals Gallery.

The gallery makes up part of a £10m makeover and means that a huge number of previously unseen pieces could be shown off to their best advantage – thanks to state-of-the-art lighting effects – alongside some well-known favourites. Some of the finest and most famous makers, including Paul Storr, are represented as well as figurative bronzes, clocks and watches.

In addition, the Joseph collection of porcelain boxes, formerly on loan to the Gilbert Collection at Somerset House, is back where it belongs.

Meanwhile a special feature is an improved display of the museum’s two famous automata. – the mechanical gold mouse of 1818 and the internationally-famous Silver Swan, which was recently conserved in full view of the public.

Jane Whittaker, principal keeper, Bowes Museum, says: "We’re delighted to be among those shortlisted for this prestigious award.

"The museum has undergone a major transformation which has included a new roof and new gallery spaces, including the nominated Silver & Metals Gallery, a revamped entrance hall, cafe, shop and visitor amenities.

"We are currently busy on our major summer exhibition, British Sporting Art; a new Textiles & Dress Gallery and a new gallery to showcase British Decorative Arts."

Finalist: Judith Kerr at Seven Stories

A@N exhibition dedicated to the work of children’s author and illustrator Judith Kerr thrilled visitors of all ages at Seven Stories, the centre for children’s books in Newcastle’s Ouseburn.

The exhibition offered something for everyone. From perfect picture books and original artwork, to challenging historical fiction based on the author’s own experiences as a child refugee in Nazi Germany, the exhibition proved to be entertaining and compelling.

Kate Edwards, chief executive of Seven Stories, says: "It was a privilege to be entrusted with this acclaimed children’s author’s archive, to have the opportunity to tell her fascinating story and to celebrate her classic picture books.

"The involvement of children from Christchurch Primary School in making the exhibition, exploring Judith’s experience of being a refugee from Nazi Germany, made the experience especially rich, demonstrating the power of literature to connect us with events of the past and revealing their relevance for us today.

"And of course it’s wonderful to see the delight on our young visitors’ faces at having tea with a 6ft tiger.

"We’ve grown up over the last year, increasingly recognised beyond our home in the North East as the national children’s literature museum – demonstrated by the national museums and libraries who’d like to work with us and the distinguished visitors we’ve welcomed, including Sarah Brown."

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