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Hancock Museum (Newcastle)

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7 Reviews

The North of England's premier Natural History Museum unravels the secrets of the natural world through sensational galleries and close encounters with reptiles and insects. For more than one hundred years the Museum has provided visitors with an insight into the animal kingdom and the powerful and sometimes destructive forces of nature. From the Dinosaurs to live animals, the Hancock is home to creatures past and present and even the odd Egyptian mummy or two.

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    7 Reviews
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      14.04.2010 20:40
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      A really good family museum - but it's NOT just for kids!

      I love the Hancock Museum!

      I don't remember much about visiting it before it was closed in 2006. I know that I did, and I have photographic evidence of myself in front of King Tutankhamen's death mask during a school visit. Therefore I can't compare the museum to what it was, I can only talk about what it is.

      I think that it's brilliant. Twenty-six million pounds was spent on the refurbishment, and I have found out from staff during visits that a great deal of that money went on modifying the building (which is listed for protection!) in order to make it safe and capable of holding such important collections. The building itself is very open plan. There's no "route" through the galleries as you find in many museums, one can just pick a starting point at will and go for it without any guidance.

      Some of the galleries are ridiculously popular. If you go during school holidays, don't expect to be able to walk through the Fossils gallery without being run into twelve times in the space of ten metres. To those that complain about children running about in museums - it's not the museum's fault, it's the parents! Museum staff shouldn't have to speak to parents about their children -- if you don't want to enjoy the museum with children present, then go when children are less likely to be present - i.e., when they're in school!

      There is a Planetarium in the museum which doesn't produce interactive talks but shows one of two mini-movies on a domed screen. While entry to the museum is free, you have to pay for the Planetarium. It doesn't cost too much - about £3 for an adult's ticket to a 40 minute show and £2 for a child's. (I think it was about £2.50/£1.50 for Adult/Child to the 20 minute show, but I'm not sure as I didn't see this one.)

      There is another part of the museum that you have to pay for, and that's the Temporary Exhibitions space. Not all temp galleries are paid entrance, but when I last visited Lindow Man was there, and that cost about £3 to get in, too. It sounds as though the Hancock (or "Great North Museum: Hancock" as we should call it now!) adds up to be an expensive day out (especially when you factor in that it's got two gift shops, a restaurant and a coffee shop), but it's still cheaper than, for example, the Centre for Life, which charges £8 or so entry whether you want to go into the temporary exhibitions or not. (It was £5.50 for children over four the last time I was there. Children under four were free.)

      I really enjoyed my last visit to the Great North Museum, and I will be going back!

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      31.03.2010 19:14
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      A very exciting museum with lots to see and do.

      I live locally to Newcastle Upon Tyne and our main city museum, The Hancock, has always been a source of interest and pride to me ever since I was a child. The museum was recently closed for a long time undergoing a major make-over which was badly needed to help the building and exhibits fit in with the new cultural aims of the North East. The museum is now managed on behalf of Newcastle University who funded and directed the redevelopment process. As well as the overhaul of the actual architecture and the exhibitions the museum has a new snazzy name: The Great North Museum. It's 'Hancock' epitaph is tacked onto the end of this rather boring and generic new title. Signposts and special footpath stickers around Newcastle will often completely miss out the 'Hancock' in the title though.

      The museum is located near the Haymarket Metro station and bus station and is a few minutes walk in the direction of Newcaslte university.

      When you enter the museum you are at the Welcome Point where the shop and information desk is located. In the wings of this area are toilets for family, men, women and an accessible toilet as well as a baby changing area. There is an induction loop available for those with hearing disabilities. Free leaflet maps are available. There is no entrance fee.

      There are two floors in the Hancock and each is divided into exhibition sections. There is not a lot of ground to cover as far as walking distances and there are seats all over the place if you need them. There is no set pattern for how or what to explore first. You can simply wander to your heart's content.

      The first section behind the Welcome Point is the Living Planet section. You can't fail to not be pulled into the magic here as there are so many extremely loud sound effects emerging from the area. It is a collection of taxidermy basically featuring animals, marine life and birds from around the world. Some of it is well done, others not so much. I couldn't help but notice that a stuffed fox had obviously been shot in the back of its head and it was badly patched. Other creatures, in particular some birds, appear to have died due to malnutrition as they don't seem fully sized or in a great condition. There are also some strange pointless additions to the collection like a puffin with a pale beak. There are some wonderful sights too though, such as the enormous elephant or the exotic birds section. The exhibition takes over both floors so you have to go upstairs for the full experience. The world famous talking budgie, Sparkie, is housed here. He looks slightly incongruous in the display case sitting on a perch whilst all the birds around him are posed in natural stances. To hear Sparkie talk you have to go right around the balcony area and find a computer touch screen where you can zoom into the display and learn all about the creatures. It's a little odd to have Sparkie detached from his voicebox! The exhibition is atmospheric but for me the animal sounds were too loud and it was almost a relief to move to the next segment. Even when I was gone I could hear an annoying mega-voiced Chiffchaff chirping nonstop!

      Beyond this section is the Hadrian's Wall area. This area has a lot of interactive features like virtual maps you can control using hand movements. You can have your initials marked on a virtual stone and then placed in a virtual wall by a Roman which is a lot of fun. There is a lot of fascinating artefacts found in the region and all are described in detail on markers beside the pieces. It's a comprehensive collection which covers more ground than I thought would be possible outside of the museums located near the wall itself.

      There is a Crystals and Gems area which is fascinating for geology fans. It's amazing to see gemstones in their raw forms, some encased in rock. Some gemstones are unrecognisable. It's interesting to see so many different colours, shapes and forms of rock. Again these pieces are from all over the world so it's an education. The gems are well placed in cases with black backgrounds and wonderful light sources to show them off. Beautiful to look at.

      Beside this is the Fossil Stories exhibit. Remember that cute dinosaur from that Ben Stiller movie, 'Night at the Museum'? Well, he's here! Or his cousin, anyway! It's an awesome giant structure alongside smaller dinosaur reconstructions which show what British dinosaurs would have looked like. Seriously, it blew my mind a bit! They are all colours and shapes, bird like or monstrous. There are a few 'living' exhibits too which showcase creatures that are closely related to these ancient animals. Fun and slightly scary exhibit as the lights are dim and the cries of the dinosars are piped out on a loop. There are lots of fun things to do on the touchscreen computers around the area. This includes learning how to be archeologoist. One task asks you to select a tool in order to successfully excavate a fossil. You can also assemble bones and reconstruct skeletons. Kids will have a ball doing these tasks.

      The Anglo-Saxon area is a bit sparse although there are a couple of foreboding exhibits and some interesting artefacts. In the same area there is a special 'Explore' area for group visitors where you can see displays of animals and insects.

      The Ice-Age to Iron Age area feels more like an adult themed area and there are some slightly disturbing pieces like burial artefacts, bones and coffins. It's an amazing revelation to the past.

      Upstairs on the first floor, which can be reached by stairs or lift, there is a Planetarium section. This area requires a fee as there are special shows on throughout the day. There are two shows: Infitinty Express and Dawn of the Space Age which show at specified times during the day from 10.10am to 4pm. Tickets must be purchased at the first floor shop at the rear of the museum.

      The Ancient Greeks area is wonderful and I really loved that I left this area feeling like I'd learned a lot. There are seats in the area where you can sit down, press a button and listen to tales of Greek mythology. These are remarkably entertaining although the narrator is a broad Geordie and even I (a fellow Geordie) couldn't understand every word he said! There are some fascinating things in the collection like vases and figurines and I was captivated.

      The Ancient Egyptians area was my favourite place as there was a lot to read and learn. There are explanations of things like belief system and culture, medicines and way of life. There is some great hands on things to do like match Egyptian symbols to their meaning. You can also see what your name looks like in heiroglyphics. In the centre of the area is a tunnel where you can enter and listen to a short tale about what Egyptians think about the afterlife. It's scary, odd but exhilirating. The exhibition would not be complete without a mummy, obviously, and there is one. It's a very strange experience to be standing over the leather-like remains of a person but it tells and shows you a lot about practices and beliefs.

      The World Cultures area is alongside and has some very interesting and beautiful artefacts which mostly reveal how different cultures from around the world worship and live according to their beliefs. So there are things like Buddhist bowls and bells, Chinese dresses and headrests, Hindu statues, Native American rattles etc. It's very interesting and a colourful, varied display.

      In the heart of the first floor is a area dedicated to Natural Northumbria. This shows us animals from around the region. There is an extensive collection of wild birds and native animals including the red squirrel which is highly worshipped in these parts! Lots to do here to including things like guessing which artefact matches which creature, ie. an owl pellet or a rabbit dropping. Again, aimed at young kids and some great educational tasks.

      There are two cafes at either end of the museum and two shops which are reasonably priced.

      I would say that it's impossible for any child to visit this place and not absolutely love it! As an adult visiting with other adults I also thoroughly enjoyed myself and felt there was a high degree of interactive features throughout the whole museum which helped sustain my interest in the exhibits. I would rate the collections overall as very good. The only let down for me was some of the taxidermy displays. I loved the Ancient Egyptians area to the extent that I intend to read up further about the subject. If you are a visitor to the area don't miss this place and if you live nearby go and have a look as it'll exceed your expectations!

      http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/greatnorthmuseum/

      Tel: (0191) 222 6765

      Open: Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 2pm-5pm

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        29.11.2009 15:01
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        Lots to see and do, if you already know that your family enjoys museums

        As this museum, since its reopening, has had awful reviews I thought that I would write a good one, as I'm sure many visitors, such as myself, have enjoyed their visits there.

        I visited the museum, now known as 'The Great North Museum; Hancock' during the summer holidays 2009, with my 8 year old niece and 10 year old nephew. I have been an avid museum visiter since I was a child. I used to get dragged around them by my parents, but I think that this helped me to enjoy them now that I'm an adult. I can enjoy looking at all sorts of things, so museums that others would find dull, I would probably at least be able to tolerate. My nephew and niece, on the other hand don't visit many museums, so aren't natural fans, and so I was hoping that this museum would be 'child friendly.'

        The museum is fairly easy to find, and is close to a Metro station. It is free to visit, which is a Godsend in these difficult financial times, and also useful for parents as school holidays can be very financially draining! Upon entering the museum you are practically inside the gift shop, which I agree must be difficult for people with younger children to entice away from, but my 2 were old enough to be told that we would look around the mueum first and go to the shop at the end of the trip.

        The first part of the museum that you come to, downstairs, is a large hall, filled with all sorts of different animals and creatures. It is visually quite impressive, and my 2 enjoyed looking at all the different animal exhibits. There are also a couple of live exhibits. There are also computer touch screens to find out more about certain animals in the gallery. Other galleries are accesible through that one, and there are various exhibitions, such as one about Roman life, and the one that the children I was with enjoyed the most was the one that detailed the various creatures that had lived before the dinosaurs, up to dinosaur times. There were some dinosaur skeletons, which my nephew thought were 'cool,' and some models of how dinosaurs would have looked. There were some interactive things to do, such as jigsaw type puzzles, and a couple of activities on computer screens. It depends on the sort of children you're with whether they would do these or not. My niece wanted to do everything, and so my nephew joined it with all the activities too, and they looked at the exhibits with interest, but I imagine that some children might have ran through the hall in 2 minutes flat without looking at anything.

        Upstairs, there is a sort of landing that goes along the top of the animal gallery, so you can see the animals displayed up high, a bit more clearly. There is an egyptian exhibition, which for some reason, my nephew and niece weren't too interested by, but I thought it was quite good. They did like the activity where you have to use the blocks provided to make a model pyramid, with my nephew insisting that his cousin not look while he did it so she wouldn't be able to 'cheat' on her turn, and then proceeded to try and help her when it was her turn anyway, when she wanted to do it herself! There was also a darkened tunnel to walk into, with projections of water and fire and things on the ground. I think this was to do with the egyptians belief of death, but can't quite remember. I know it was very popular with children to walk through though. Also upstairs was an exhibition about birds and various woodland creatures. Upstairs also houses the planetarium, which cost extra and we didn't bother with, so I can't really comment on that. Also, there was a restaurant, which we visited. It wasn't really big enough, as we were fortunate to get a table, but we saw lots of people being turned away. The food was quite expensive, which I was expecting, as I'm used to museum prices. I suppose they have to have it fairly dear as they don't charge for entry to the museum. I managed to tempt the kids with a sausage stottie sandwich, which was about the cheapest thing on the menu! There is also another shop upstairs, smaller than the downstairs one, but with a range of cheap and expensive gifts.

        One other part that I should mention is the room for (supposedly) under fives. I think it's called the 'Mouse House' or something like that. It is downstairs, at the end of one of the galleries. I noticed it first, but didn't mention it to the children as I thought they would be too old. But when they saw it they wanted to go in, and we must have spent about half an hour in there! It's a room with some holes in one wall, that children crawl through to get into the mouse hole, which is just a space with some cushions. It's big enough for a few kids to sit in there, and I think kids like it as generally adults are too big for the holes and so they can get away from mum and dad! Also in the room are some little doors that open and then you hear various sounds. There's not much else in there though, but for some reason my two loved it! I was a bit cross though because the room is billed on the museum leaflet as being for under fives, so I felt that small children should take priority. Lots of parents/carers were just letting their older ones rampage around though, and it was a small room so toddlers were in danger of being trampled on. When my nephew began a game of 'Tag' I quickly stopped it, so my 2 were content to just sit in the 'hole' and talk to the other kids in there, but I was the only one who spoke to children about their behaviour; the other adults were happy for theirs to charge about, which I didn't think was very fair on the little ones there.

        At the end of the visit my 2 spent a good half an hour in the shops, choosing little goodies to buy. There were some quite expensive things, that would have made good Christmas or birthday presents, but there was a range of things from about 50p to £2 that most kids were getting, and my 2 were happy to go away with a couple of little nicknacks.

        I can't remember the exact timings of the day, but I think we arrived at about 11am and left at about 4pm, so we spent a good 5 hours in the museum. We all had a really good day, and the kids both told their parents that they had enjoyed it. My nephew took quite a few photos of the animal exhibits while we were there, and was keen to show them to his mum straight away.

        As other reviewers have said that they did not enjoy their visit then I don't think anyone else will know whether they will like it or not until they actually go there and see for themselves. Adults who enjoy museums should like it, as there is a lot to see, but if you are going without children then I wouldn't recommend going during school holidays! As for families with children, that really depends on what expectations the families have. I expected to look at everything and to spend a good few hours there, so we did. I encouraged the children I was with to look at things, and to try out the interactive activities and so they did, and they enjoyed the day. I know some children just race around museums with their parents following them, and so they could have been in and out of the Hancock within an hour, probably less, and so wouldn't have enjoyed it. This museum was perfect for the ages of children that I had with me - 8 and 10, as they were old enough to look at things properly, and to find the exhibits interesting. I wouldn't recommend this museum to children under about 6, unless they are the type of children who really enjoy looking at museum exhibits. There is not a great deal for young children to do at the museum. There is the 'Mouse House' but apart from a few doors to open and the 'hole' to explore, there's not much there, and it won't hold young children's interest for very long. I also have a 2 year old nephew, who loved the Discovery Museum in Newcastle, as it had a large water play area for under fives, but I wouldn't take him to the Hancock for a good few years yet.

        My nephew and niece enjoyed the hands on activities, but, although the museum had not been open long, there were a couple that had already stopped working, which was disappointing. I think whoever is in charge of these needs to decide either to check them every day and replace them as soon as they break, or to take away the ones that don't work and put something else there, as it's disappointing for children to find an activity to do and then discover that it doesn't work.

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          01.08.2009 16:27

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          Avoid like the plague.

          I thought it was very poor and would not visit again. Most items on display were either copies, reproductions, casts, models, or duplicates, including plastic fish and an elephant. If you like being spoon fed this is the place to go. The lighting was so bad is some cases you could not see the item on display. Coins were so far from the glass you could not see them. There is obviously a structural fault upstairs as items in cases wobbled alarmingly as people walked by. Lettering was already worn off of some signage. Why animals in a museum? It's not a zoo! not that they were there (quarantined). You could not hear dialogue from information points because it was so noisy. The glass cases had children's finger smear round adult viewing height. No staff only ones in shops. Where is rest of stuff? Victorian? Ceramics? Industrial heritage? etc? etc? Fine for a place for 5 year olds to run around like maniacs. Give me glass cases any day. It seems that all these modern museums care about is the quantity of people coming through the door so they can get their grants. A good 20% of the touchy feely stuff was already broken/missing and this is the second week of the holidays. Planetarium closed! It's a good job it's free because you wouldn't pay to go in. You have to pay to visit York museum, well worth it in comparison, York is everything a museum should be. I cannot understand why they have dumbed it down so much and spent so much money when there are plenty of other places in Newcastle for hyperactive kids to go and bang buttons.

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          01.06.2009 14:24
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          Dumbed Down and Not Worth a Special Trip.

          Where do I start?
          OK so after 3 years and £26 million was it worth the wait?

          Not in my opinion.

          Having visited with my 2 children only a matter of days from opening I, and they, were very dissapointed.

          OK, so it was in the middle of the school holidays and entryt is free therefore I was expecting it to be busy. And Boy was it Busy!!

          Although the queue was lengthy we were processed quickly and entered via the original frontage of a once fine museum.

          Upon entering the first thing that greets you is one of the 2 shops and therefore the kids were asking for keepsakes before we'd actually seen anything.

          The museum as a whole doesn't seem to have any 'Flow' to it, I had assumed that there would be a chronological 'Journey' through history but this wasn't the case.

          A number of the live exhibits weren't on display, either still being in quarentine or simply empty tanks. After 3 years I would have thought that the animals would have been ready for display and that the missing ones have died of old age!!

          There are more interactive exhibits including touch screen displays and childrens magnadoodle type things, however after only a few days of being open a number of touch screens were covered and innoperable and the 'magnadoodles' had been totally trashed.

          There is a large collection of Roman artifacts including Altar and inscription stones but translations seem to be lacking.

          Once through the door the only staff members I saw were those flogging expensive 'Tat' in the shops. There was no evidence of 'Explainers' or security personel.

          Lighting within the Gems and Fossils area may proove an issue with those with less that perfect eyesight as it is quite dark.

          The charges for keepsakes is bordering on rediculous. My daighter wanted a small leather(ish) book mark, when I found out it cost £2.75 she left in floods of tears minus the bookmark!

          Prior to the re-fit I remember spening hours within the collections and artifacts of the Old Hancock, but after spending just an hour within the New Hancock I felt the need to leave.

          In short: if it's raining and you have nothing better to do then and you're in the area then it MAY be worth a visit. But it certainly isn't worth a special trip.

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          25.05.2009 19:16
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          A great place to go on a rainy day

          The Hancock is in its own way a quirky museum which houses a combination of permanent exhibitions (birds and Egyptians etc.) with temporary exhibitions. The museum has actually been closed for several years now in a massive restoration project which will see it reopen soon. Its reopening should be exciting since it is a great rainy day location which never gets old, not even the permanent exhibitions.

          I mentioned quirky because the museum has had an all manner of exhibitions from dinosaurs to Buffy the vampire slayer. The variety of these exhibitions helps contribute to its longevity and also makes it that bit easier to get reluctant kids into a museum.

          Admission prices are very generous as is the shop they operate with mainly pocket money gifts. The museum did not use to sport too much in the way of technology if that bothers you, but this may well have changed when it reopens.

          There is also a great and well kept lawn in the front which is a fun way to get rid any boredom built up in the museum by rolling down the hill etc.

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          18.02.2006 20:11
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          An excellent museum with lots of interactive activities

          **A Little bit of History**

          The museum in its present site was opened in1884 and is as such quite a "monument" in Newcastle.
          The museum first started in 1780s when Marmaduke Tunstall started to collect natural history material from all over the world, and when he died, his collection was bought by George Allan of Darlington, in 1791.
          The collections were soon too extensive for the building and the new museum was opened on its present site in 1884, and when the well known naturalist John Hancock died in 1890, the museum was named after him.

          **Where is it**

          The museum is located in the city centre, between Barras Bridge and Claremont Road and is close to the university, and Eldon Square shopping center, as well as Northumberland- right at the heart of things.

          To get there by car, take the A167 Central Motorway and follow the AA signs for the museum.

          By far the easiest way is to get the Metro to Haymarket, which is what we did, having parked the car at Jesmond ant then it's one short stop away.



          **What's At the Museum?**

          Land of the Pharoahs:
          History Study Unit 6. Key Stage 2, Art Key Stage 1-3.
          There is a permanent Egyptian display illustrating life and death in Egyptian times, and there are even two Egyptian mummies, which always fascinates children. The display looks at every day life in Ancient Egypt, and features interactive activities including build your own pyramid and create an Egyptian pattern. Children can even put a penny into a machine and make it into an "Egyptian" coin. When I have taken children to the museum, they are fascinated by the embalmer's tent, with a model of a dead person lying on a bed, being embalmed; this proved too much for little lady when we visited the other day, and she proclaimed it to be something she "didn't want to look at…" Although she didn't quite understand what it was, she was quite impressed with the 2500 year old mummy, Irt, irw. This mummy does tend to be the star attraction with children and especially as they can visualize what she would have been like when alive because there is a description, and also computer information about her reconstruction.

          Living Planet:
          Science Key Stages 1-3. Life and Living Processes
          This area is downstairs and shows us in a scientific way, many of the species on earth, how they have evolved and how we are altering and often damaging the balance of nature. Little miss was most interested in the dodo; she knew that they were extinct, so coming "face to face" with one was quite exciting for her. The area I find most impressive and haunting is the tombstones with doors which open to show inside models of extinct animals and birds. Quite disturbing when you face the fact that these will never be seen again. The area charts everything from the water cycle to habitats, adaptation to food chains, and will even let you find out how environmentally friendly you are.

          Magic of Birds:
          Science Key Stages 1-3. Life and Living Processes
          This is on a mezzanine level and then ground floor- at least that's how it feels but there are lots of complex turns and when faced with this number of stuffed birds you are forgiven for losing your way and feeling a bit disorientated. It's a huge collection of birds, showing breeding, migration and bird folklore. There are "teeny tiny" hummingbirds. A huge skeleton of the now extinct Moa and two emus. It is certainly impressive and on the upper level, there is a selection of almost every bird from the British Isles.

          Earthworks:
          Science Key Stages 1-3. Life and Living Processes, Materials and Properties.
          On the ground floor, find out how the earth began by traveling back nearly 5 billion years- you even feel as though you are going back in time as you go through a twinkly tunnel. I have taken classes of children to this area to study subjects such as fossils, the evolution of life, rocks and crystals. All of the information is accompanied by interactive displays and pc activities, all child friendly, informative and educational.

          Abel's Ark
          Science Key Stages 1-3. Life and Living Processes
          This area is downstairs, and usually the first area I visit when I go to the museum. It is a long corridor and behind the glass partition is an ark but it's not Noah's ark, it belongs to Abel, and there he is, sitting in a chair, reading his book. Abel was a big game hunter in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who also set up National Parks. We had great fun spotting the animals- bears, zebra, giraffe, gnu, bison- too many to list. A warning though- if you don't like stuffed animals, don't go.

          Live animals
          Science Key Stages 1-3. Life and Living Processes
          There are lots of live animals dotted around the museum-giant snails, spiders, turtles, snakes and fish (even a clown fish- Nemo).

          A World of Difference:
          Art Key Stages 1-3. History Key Stage 2

          This area displays artefacts from changing and extinct cultures including a brick from the Great wall of China, and includes clothing, utensils, musical instruments and weapons. This is one of two areas I haven't really explored at length because I usually go with children and this seems to be too staid for them. The other area I haven't spent a lot of time in is …

          The Bewick shrine
          History Key Stage 2. Art Key Stage 1-3
          A display of prints and original materials from the famous Northern artist.

          Ancient Greece:
          History Key Stage 2
          Similar to the Ancient Egypt display, this includes artefacts and imparts lots of information. Book in advance and there is the opportunity to have an Ancient Greek person visit your class dressed as an Ancient Greek, ready to act out some aspect of life and answer questions.

          The Den
          Activity area for young children which is split into two zones which focus on the seashore and the jungle. There are some live animals, toys and games. We just walked past this and when asked, little miss decided she didn't want to go in- there are far more interesting things to do in the museum, and when children have been expose

          **OTHER INFORMATION**

          I have been on several occasions with classes of children, from both Key Stage 1 and 2. There is a lecture room which can be booked, and if going with a group, it's well worth doing this, so that you have somewhere to leave bags and coats, and most importantly, to eat your lunch. It's a large room and after lunch can actually be used to "do" a lesson, fitted as it is with audio visual equipment.
          Order educational packs which are well worth having, and even if going round the museum with your own child(ren), they will enjoy actually finding the things suggested in the packs.
          The Hancock Museum has lecture and conference room which can be hired at various costs for meetings, seminars and evening functions.
          Toilets are located on the ground floor at each side of the foyer- clean and functional with a toilet for disabled people.
          Shop is at the foyer selling the usual museum "stuff"- we had to get a dinosaur and this tube which makes a noise when moved
          Disabled access to the museum is via a very narrow ramp at the side of the stairs

          **Entrance and opening times**

          Open…Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 2pm-5pm
          Price…£3.95 adults, £1.95 child, under 4s free. It does say that entry is free but I have never tried this. I think the entrance fee is actually for the special exhibitions

          **Address and contact**

          Barras Bridge
          Newcastle upon Tyne
          NE2 4PT

          Tel: 0191 2226765
          Fax: 0191 2226753

          **Verdict**

          As I have said, I have been many times with classes of children, hence the putting down of National Curriculum links such as I have used them, in case anyone is interested. If going with a group of children, I would suggest you take a look round before because there is no guide. I always buy the specific educational packs and go beforehand with little lady, hence the latest visit on Sunday.
          The exhibitions are constantly changing; the most popular seemed to be the mini beasts and the dinosaurs. The Egyptian exhibition at the moment has more to offer older children and adults, although the lady at the desk assured me that sometimes there are ancient Egyptians walking around to bring it to life. There were some interactive activities, such as weighing a heart against a feather but all in all it is for adults.
          However, the museum itself is fascinating for children. Turn the first corner and you can listen to tapes of the singing budgie and marvel at the animals in Abel's ark.
          Walk up the huge sweeping stone stairs and on the way up. Children will be naming the animals painted on the walls, and then they notice the huge whale near the ceiling.
          We spent ages looking at a snake in a big glass cage and I can honestly say that I have never seen such an active snake.
          There are butterflies and mini beasts from all over the world- dead and pinned to boards but quite fascinating if you can get over the fact that it is a tad gross.
          The bird exhibition is amazing, and children and adults alike tend to be amazed by the number of birds, and the sizes of the eggs…some so tiny and some huge.
          There are lots of interactive activities for children to get involved in and room for lots of further discussion; if you want children to gain an insight and an interest in the natural world it's a fantastic starting place.
          I found the temperatures on each planet fascinating- they show the range of temperatures and allow the arrow to be moved within this range, so you gain an understanding of how Mars is the only other planet which could possibly sustain a life form such as ours.

          Enough of that… I think the museum is a real experience, with or without the exhibitions, and is well worth the entrance fee.

          The only down side is that it is closing at the end of April for refurbishment- for three years. They do believe it will take nearly a year to get everything out!

          When it reopens it won't be called the Hancock museum which I think is a shame, but ever onwards, we can't stop "progress"

          Thanks for reading.

          Daniela x

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