It will be party time at a major museum today as it celebrates its fifth birthday.
The first 150 children through the doors of the Great North Museum in Newcastle at 10am will receive a cake lollipop inspired by the collections – with an Egyptian mummy, Roman helmet, T Rex, elephant or butterfly design.
Since reopening in May 2009 as the Great North after the conversion of the 19th Century Hancock Museum building, there have been more than 2,700,000 visitors.
More than 100,000 people have visited since the current Magic Worlds exhibition opened on March 22 this year.
Learning staff have delivered workshops based on the wide array of collections to nearly 95,000 school students aged from five to 16. More than 30 special exhibitions, and hundreds of family events, have attracted 132,000 visitors.
The museum has received more than 20 awards and commendations since reopening, including making the shortlist for the European Museum of the Year award 2011 and the 2012 Visit England Access for All National Tourism Award. The Great North Museum: Hancock was also recently named one of the top 10 regional museums in the Observer magazine by Arts Council England (ACE) Museums Director John Orna-Ornstein.
Museum manager Dr Sarah Glynn said: “We have had a fantastic first five years.
“The museum goes from strength to strength. The high quality of the exhibitions, events, learning opportunities - for both adults and children - the study facilities and resource centre, and ultimately the world class collections, are speaking for themselves. We’re really excited for our future.”
Professor Eric Cross, dean of cultural affairs at Newcastle University said: “It has been wonderful to see the museum flourish over the past five years and to see record-breaking numbers of visitors enjoy its fantastic exhibits. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next five years have in store.”
The original Hancock Museum underwent a £26m Heritage Lottery Fund-backed renovation, led by Tyneside-educated architect Terry Farrell.
Special exhibition highlights of the past five years have included Pharaoh: King of Egypt, Newcastle University’s Great North Build and the current Magic Worlds exhibition.
The Great North Museum: Resource Centre is a storage facility which holds the collections which are not on display. Academics and researchers both locally and internationally work continuously with the curators and the collection with free tours available to the public.
The Be Part of It public giving campaign in the weeks before the museum reopened gave people the opportunity to donate to its learning and engagement programmes.
It was so popular that it was re-launched in 2012 as The Butterfly Wall. There are now close to 1,500 butterflies in the butterfly space celebrating weddings, births, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries or memories of good times past - each one tells a story.
The museum incorporates collections from the old Hancock Museum and Newcastle University’s Museum of Antiquities, the Shefton Museum of Greek and Etruscan Art and Archaeology, and brings together the North East’s premier collections of archaeology, natural history and geology under one roof.