Newcastle Discovery Museum to celebrate 80th anniversary on Saturday

The Discovery Museum - home to Charles Parsons' Turbinia - first opened as the Municipal Museum of Science & Industry in Exhibition Park in the city

The Discovery Museum in Newcastle
The Discovery Museum in Newcastle

A museum which pulled in 410,000 visitors last year will welcome more on Saturday when it stages a birthday bash to mark its 80th anniversary.

What is now Discovery Museum in Newcastle first opened as the Municipal Museum of Science & Industry in Exhibition Park in the city.

It opened in July 1934 as a result of the hugely popular North East Coast exhibition of 1929, which itself had attracted 4.3m visitors.

The new museum, based in the exhibition’s Palace of Arts building, received more than 22,000 visits during its first year.

As the museum’s collections increased, it outgrew its premises and in 1978 the move was made to its current building at Blandford Square.

The building had been completed in 1899 for the Co-op Wholesale Society (CWS) and housed warehousing, sales rooms, and administration.

Transformers at the Discovery Museum
Transformers at the Discovery Museum

From Blandford Square stock was distributed to 115 CWS retail societies in the North East. CWS operations ended in 1972.

In 1993 the museum was re-launched as Discovery and the following year what is now its best-known exhibit made the transfer from Exhibition Park.

Crowds gathered to watch Charles Parsons’ Turbinia, once the fastest boat afloat, as she was transported through the streets of Newcastle to her new home, where she now has pride of place in Discovery’s entrance hall.

In 2004, a £13 million redevelopment of the museum was completed, with the galleries and displays refurbished.

The following year the venue to be the region’s most popular museum - attracting 450,000 visitors.

Today, the thousands of visitors to Discovery Museum can see displays about life on Tyneside, from the region’s renowned maritime history and world-changing science and technology through to migration and military history.

This year is already turning out to be one for the Discovery Museum record books with the popular Toon Times exhibition, charting the history of Newcastle United, helping to bring some 50,000 visitors through the doors in February.

Carolyn Ball, Discovery Museum manager, said: “It’s hard to believe that it is 80 years since the Municipal Museum of Science & Industry, which went on to become Discovery Museum, opened in Exhibition Park.

“This Saturday gives us a chance to celebrate everything in Discovery’s history with our visitors, who I’m sure, will have a wonderful day out at our party.”

The 80th birthday event will feature giant games, jazz music, object handling, craft activities, a fancy dress competition and special guests in the form of Optimus Prime and Bumble Bee who will be taking time out from promoting their new Transformers movie.

Free entry to Play Tyne, the under fives water play area, will be offered to the first 80 youngsters .

Staff at the museum will continue to celebrate the 80th anniversary across the summer with family fun activities happening every Thursday during the school holidays.

Highlights include Geordie Day: A Celebration of Tyneside on Thursday July 31. This event will celebrate the many different cultures found on Tyneside and will include Urdu calligraphy, recycled art, henna work, Bollywood dancing and Chinese ribbon and fan dancing.

As well as Big Thursday’s this summer, Discovery Museum will also be extending its opening hours during the week to 5pm.


David Whetstone
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