Visitor numbers are up by 20% at a North East museum, with more than half a million people venturing through its doors in the past 12 months.
Beamish Museum in County Durham is celebrating 2013 as a record-breaking year, with more people visiting than ever before.
Over the past 12 months, 589,474 people have taken a journey into the past at the centre, which celebrates the region’s Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian history.
Museum director Richard Evans said: “This upturn in numbers, revenue and employment is great news not just for the people who love and work for Beamish - it is a real boost for our region’s economy.
“More than half of our visitors come from outside the North East on holiday.
“They visit other attractions across the region and stay overnight in our hotels, guest houses and campsites.”
Visitor number results for 2013 are 19% higher than in 2012, which means the museum has just enjoyed its most successful year since it opened 43 years ago.
Its closest visitor success rate was back in 1991 with 520,000 tickets sold during the year of the Gateshead Garden Festival.
The visitor number boost comes just four years after Beamish attracted only 300,000 people to the 350-acre site, which was not enough to cover the rising cost of running the venue.
At the time Mr Evans said the region’s biggest tourist attraction was struggling to pay its 175-strong workforce during that year and there was a danger that jobs would be lost if the business didn’t undergo a rapid change.
Yet visitor numbers to the large open-air site near Stanley have since almost doubled over the last five years, since it introduced an “unlimited” ticket with 12 months’ admission for the same price as a day ticket.
The turnaround is also said to be due to a £4m investment to create a range of new attractions, including a 1940s farm opening this February half term.
Beamish also created more than 100 new jobs in the same period, from engineers to traditional fish and chip shop keepers.
Last year saw the start of a new chapter for the museum too, as The Great Donate project launched, taking the venue into the 20th Century.
For the first time the public are being requested to hand over 20th Century items to fill the attracion’s planned 1950s town, which will include Airey houses transported from a street in Kibblesworth near Birtley.
Household items from the 1950s to the 1980s are already flooding in, carefully stored at the museum until a use is found for them.
A highlight of Beamish’s bumper 2013 was the opening of the 101-year-old Hetton Silver Band Hall, witnessed by hundreds of local people and later in the summer the opening of the working Town Bakery, set in the early 1900s.
All of the surplus funds from the last 12 months will be re-invested in a range of new attractions opening over the next two years, including a medieval church set in the 1820s and a chemist and photographers’ studio set in the 1900s.