A LEADING museum is expecting to welcome its millionth visitor next week, underlining its status as the most popular visitor attraction in the region.
The Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle attracted 67,000 people in its first week in May 2009 and crashed through its annual target of 300,000 visitors in less than three months.
It has since gone on to break all records for such a venue in the North East.
To mark its latest achievement, the museum will be hosting a celebratory day next Wednesday with free entry to its planetarium throughout the day as well as special craft activities for children. There will also be a cake cutting ceremony.
Incorporating collections from the original Hancock Museum, and Newcastle University’s former Museum of Antiquities and the Shefton Museum, the Great North Museum: Hancock brings the North East’s premier collections of archaeology, natural history, geology and world cultures together under one roof.
Professor Eric Cross, dean of cultural affairs at Newcastle University, said: “Eight years ago, a group of people had a vision to breathe new life into the Hancock Museum and the university’s archaeological museums. Newcastle University is immensely proud to have led the partnership which has turned that vision into a reality.
“The staggering success of the museum more than justifies its ‘Great’ title, and the best thing of all for everyone involved is that one million visitors agree”.
Ged Bell, chairman of Tyne & Wear Joint Museums and Archives committee, said: “A million people have now visited us at this world-class museum. The quality of the collections and the visitor experience has brought people back time and time again. We have had an amazing response from visitors over the last year and we look forward to welcoming millions more to the Great North Museum over the years.”
Peter Davis, chairman of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, said: “We are totally delighted with the astounding success achieved by the museum. Its exhibitions and educational activities have clearly had a major impact, attracting new audiences and many thousands of repeat visits.
“It is also encouraging to see so many people, including university students, now utilising the library and archival resources, and that plans for increasing the research capability of the museum will soon reach fruition with the completion of a resource centre where the society’s collections are held”.
David Breeze, President of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, also welcomed the achievement. “We have been collecting archaeological objects from the North East for nearly 200 years and are delighted that the society’s archaeological collection has received a new lease of life through the creation of the Great North Museum and that it is helping visitors to appreciate the rich history of this special part of Britain,” he said.
Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the North East said it was “brilliant” that the museum had attracted one million visitors.
“Since we awarded £8.75m, one of our largest ever grants in the North East, the museum has gone from strength to strength and is a superb example of the economic benefits that lottery funding into our heritage can bring,” he said.
In the Long Run – 30 years of the Great North Run is on show in the museum until October 17.
The exhibition celebrates the history and significance of the Great North Run and features memorabilia and star objects, as well as paintings, photographs and archive footage.