Newcastle Museum was first opened in 1884 to house the Literary and Philosophical Society’s artefacts and grew in popularity. But by the beginning of the 21st century the Victorian museum was drawing fewer visitors, and the fabric of the beautiful Grade II* listed building was falling apart. The glass roof leaked badly, the aged heating system was inadequate and access was awkward.
In 2007, a £26m restoration, refurbishment and extension project began which would bring together various collections under the newly re-branded attraction.
Much of the refurbishment was a studied conservation. The sandstone façade was repaired to preserve the aged feel, windows were reconditioned and timber doors repaired. The internal stone stairwells and interior walls were restored using traditional lime-based plaster, paint and horsehair, the original flooring was lifted, restored and replaced, lighting was updated and a new roof installed.
We opened up small, separate galleries to create three larger galleries. There’s now a seamless transition from the original building to the new three-storey extension at the back. As well as a library, café and archive and meeting rooms, the new building features a 5,167sq ft exhibition room. The room has floor-to-ceiling windows which can be shuttered for exhibitions or left open when used as a hire venue.
New M & E services, including lift installation, air conditioning, IT room provision and interactive whiteboards and data projection facilities, bring the venue completely up to date. In 2009 HM The Queen opened the Great North Museum to an eager public. 10,000 visitors arrived on the first day and more than 852,000 over the course of the year; a tenfold increase in visitors from before the refurbishment. Most importantly, that tenfold increase in visitor numbers also delivered a 98% visitor satisfaction rating.
Since 2009 it has won the British Interactive Media Award, the Renaissance Museum Award in the Journal Culture Awards, the Northern Marketing Awards and the Journal NE Culture Award for best museum in the region. It received an interior design commendation in the World Architecture Fair Awards in Barcelona in 2009, and was long-listed for the Art Fund Prize in 2010 and shortlisted for the Guardian Family Friendly Awards. In May 2011 the Great North Museum was also shortlisted for the European Museum of the Year.
“HAVING WORKED ACROSS A NUMBER OF AREAS WITHIN THE HOSPITAL CAMPUS, WE ARE ACUTELY AWARE OF THE NEED TO MANAGE THE I&R PROCESS WITH CARE, ATTENTION TO DETAIL AND A REAL UNDERSTANDING OF PATIENT NEEDS.”