A cash windfall will help protect collections which include the best of the region’s natural history heritage.
The Natural History Society of Northumbria has received a grant of £137,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the three-year project.
The funds will enable the Newcastle-based charity to significantly improve the long-term management, preservation and access to their internationally important collections.
They include 16,000 artworks, photographs, artefacts, letters and diaries which are stored at the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle. The project will also involve schools and groups of young people in the archive and its fascinating stories.
The society will be able to employ a part-time archivist and will also be recruiting volunteers to help with the project.
The collection includes original artworks by Thomas Bewick, the Northumbrian-born wood engraver and naturalist, and the project will make this available online for the first time.
June Holmes, who has helped care for the collections on a voluntary basis for nearly 20 years, said: “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given this grant, which will enable us to properly care for the collection and make it available to the public for them to enjoy and research.
“There is lots of captivating history in the archive and we can’t wait to share it through this project.”
The archive is used by researchers, academics, authors, artists, students and by people worldwide It includes material from other famous naturalists including John Hancock who was behind the building of the Hancock Museum and Abel Chapman who helped save the Spanish Ibex from extinction.
The collections also include letters from Jean-Francois Champollion which shed light on the work of the man celebrated as the founding father of Egyptology.
Ivor Crowther, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “The Natural History Society of Northumbria is one of the oldest natural history societies in the country and its collections dating back to the 18th Century are bursting with stories and pictures which can connect people to their natural heritage – both locally and further afield.
“We’re delighted to support the society to secure the future of its archive and inspire the natural scientists of the future.”
People can see some of the archive material at a free talk about the drawings of Thomas Bewick taking place at the Great North Museum: Hancock on Saturday at 1pm. For more details visit www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk or call 0191 208 2790.