A museum which looks at ten thousand years of life in and around a Northumberland market town is to reopen following a major refurbishment.
The Bailiffgate Museum and Gallery at Alnwick tells stories of the town and its district’s earliest days, its turbulent history and its changing industries.
It is to reopen on Saturday having undergone an extensive overhaul, carried out courtesy of a £308,000 cash injection from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The independent attraction, near the entrance to Alnwick Castle, was first opened in 2002 in the former St Mary’s Church. It retains much of the historic building, including its stained glass windows.
Before securing the grant, trustees asked visitors and the local community what they would like to see. The refurbished museum was designed with their views in mind.
The work has transformed the museum into a place that brings history into the 21st Century, with interactive displays, videos and the chance to see, hear and handle the past. Stories are all told in new and exciting ways.
Highlights of the new displays include 10,000-year-old relics from the time of the Howick House Mesolithic site - one of the earliest homes to be built in Northumberland - a re-created printer’s workshop based on that of Alnwick-born William Davison and a Victorian schoolroom.
The site is opening its doors on Saturday, just in time for the schools’ half-term holiday.
A photographic exhibition, Shots from the Heart, in which local people have captured the daily working life of Alnwick, is one of a number of events planned to celebrate the reopening.
Another is the launch of Singin’ Hinnies: the story of a Northumbrian Family, 1859-1965 By Joyce Robertson, a book produced by the Glanton Heritage Group in association with the museum.
Museum trustee Jane Nolan said: “We have worked together for two years to come up with the stories and content.
“We have created a colourful and friendly space with displays that tell the stories of Alnwick and District in a really accessible way.
“We have new information panels that tell some astonishing tales from our history. They are set out so that visitors can travel through time from 7800BC through to the present day.
“Timelines help to place local events in their historical context, both in the UK and internationally.
“There are also activities, from dressing up to brass rubbing, a video jukebox with films that give fascinating glimpses of Alnwick and District in the past and films of our community projects.”
As well as a visitor attraction, the museum is a hub for local people and community groups, from pre-schoolers to local writers and poets, and a popular destination for school trips.
The museum’s patron, the Duke of Northumberland, said: “We’re delighted that our Heritage Lottery Fund grant has enabled us to portray the rich history of Alnwick and District in such an attractive and exciting way.
“The story of this changing town and landscape has many chapters and we believe we have encompassed them all.
“We hope this wonderful asset will now continue to be fully used by local communities and also that it will bring in more visitors to enjoy our unique heritage and culture.”