CULTURE Minister Barbara Follett was yesterday given a sneak preview of the North East’s latest major attraction – and hailed it as “mind blowing”.
Ms Follett was given a tour of the £26m Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle where workmen are beavering away towards the building’s opening on May 23.
The interior of the 19th Century Hancock Museum is being transformed with suites of new galleries and an extension has also been added.
“It is a very daring in concept to take an old building and expand it into something very modern, but which still honours its past,” said Ms Follett, who is Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism.
“The museum will be a wonderful attraction which will tell people about their world and the their past.”
She also praised the venture as a “perfect example” of culture-led regeneration.
The museum will house the extensive collections of the Hancock Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Antiquities and Shefton Greek Museum, both of which were based at Newcastle University.
In bringing together the North East’s premier collections of archaeology, natural history, geology and world cultures under one roof, it will allow for the display of many items which have been in storage.
“The Great North Museum is a marvellous example of how in some special cases, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts,” said Ms Follett.
“By bringing collections together in the way that it has, the museum will create a fascinating educational and fun visitor experience.
“I am sure it will become one of Newcastle’s ‘must see’ attractions.”
The Minister was also treated to the sight of one of the new museum’s star exhibits – a life size replica of a T-Rex dinosaur.
She met representatives from Great North Museum partners Newcastle University, Tyne and Wear Museums, the Natural History Society of Northumbria, Newcastle Society of Antiquaries and Newcastle City Council.
Prof Paul Younger, Newcastle University pro-vice chancellor for engagement, said: “Newcastle University is proud to convene the partnership which has brought about the fantastic transformation of the Hancock Museum, and which will ensure that the Great North Museum endures for generations to come as a truly world-class cultural attraction among the city’s growing array of stunning locations.”
The aim is that the new museum will serve as a gateway to the environment, landscape and history of the North East.
It will include a planetarium, an exhibition space capable of taking some of the largest touring exhibitions and galleries devoted to Natural Northumbria, Ancient Egypt, World Cultures, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. Other galleries include Living Planet, Hadrian’s Wall, and Fossil Stories.