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Get stuffed

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hancock museum, newcastle upon tyne(Or mounted Victorian style)

Years ago, as a schoolboy I often went to the public museum and library in Ocean Road, South Shields, it had an olde worlde atmosphere and a smell of faded leather and boiled linseed oil in it’s halls of carved oak and polished brass. The library was on the ground floor and South Shields museum occupied the first floor, long before Denmark Square was built and the book collections rehoused in a new facility.

The fascination in the museum was it’s lauding of Empire and the illustration of conquest, be it Roman over Britain or Britain over Africa or India, with a collection of hoarded weapons, uniforms, trinkets, glassware, and artefacts brought back to this isle by soldiers, merchants, and anthropologists during those years when the British Empire was marked in pink on every schoolboy’s globe. It also housed a fairly rare (for the north east) collection of “mounted” animals and birds – imagine road kill opened up, stuffed with straw and cotton, and sewn back together again. Yes a treasure trove of taxidermy which was removed from view in South Shields with the building of the new library, it was taken into custody by Tyne Wear Museums who over the past few years have been working their socks off to make the past more accessible, more meaningful,  more interesting, and more interactive for future generations, and I think we’d agree that South Shields Museum with it’s strong links to the Catherine Cookson stories, Jobling, mining, and glass and chemical works works well for youngsters and for visitors.

I took the children up to Newcastle yesterday to have a look at the Hancock Museum, which is now marketed as part of the Great North Museum, and having benefited from massive public investment it’s galleries are a joy to spend time in, spacious, temperature controlled, and carefully laid out. It is certainly worth setting four hours or so aside to peruse and learn. If you thought that you’d never see the taxidermy collection again then think over, I’m sure most of it must have been rehoused up in Newcastle, and if you have a chance this week before the kids get back to school take them up there for a good look about. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

We can learn so much about ourselves by looking back, and if we learn well then our future has a chance of being so much better, (still not sure why the Victorians were enamoured with the art of stuffing animals, but in a time before cinema, television, or colour photography, perhaps it was the best way of bringing an elephant to the imagination of Geordies up here).

Entrance, by the way, is free.

Click thumbnail to enlarge

Great North Museum

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Written by curly

September 1, 2009 at 9:33 pm

2 Responses

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  1. The Hancock was a popular place to take my children during the school holidays along with the museum in the old library at Shields. This year I took my visiting granddaughters to the reopened Hancock and agree it is well worth a visit,
    We enjoyed the free Tommy’s partys, free swimming at the Leisure pool plus the playground in the Marine Park. They think the North East is a top holiday spot.


    September 2, 2009 at 9:27 am

  2. I, similarly ,have had visitors this summer.They are all enthusiastic about what South Shields and beyond have to offer. We are all too ready to denigrate our area. We need to listen to those who see our environment with a more optimistic eye. This part of the North has so much to offer. Our visitors, from New Zealand and Canada, let alone those from the UK, despair at our negativity. Let us start talking the North East up!!

    mrs. doasyouwouldbedoneby

    September 3, 2009 at 12:34 am

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