Newcastle’s Discovery Museum in line for major renovations to reverse ‘serious state of decline’

Newcastle’s famous Discovery Museum is set for a revamp.
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Newcastle’s Discovery Museum is in line for a huge renovation in the hope of turning it into a “major attraction” for the city.

Bosses at the popular science and local history museum have revealed “ambitious” plans to launch a significant refurbishment of both its ageing home and its exhibitions.

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The venue houses some of the North East’s most prized historical assets, including Charles Parsons’ Turbinia – the first ship to be powered by steam turbines and once the fastest vessel in the world.

The Discovery Museum in Newcastle Upon Tyne.The Discovery Museum in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
The Discovery Museum in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

But the museum’s base, the grade II listed Blandford House, is said to be in a “serious state of decline”, while decades-old displays are also in line for a refresh.

Keith Merrin, director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said: “Discovery Museum is one of our region’s most popular museums and loved by generations of local people. It is housed in an old building (built in 1899) and both the building itself and the displays, some of which have been in place for over 30 years, are in need of refurbishment.

“Working with Newcastle City Council, we are in the early stages of planning an ambitious programme to develop the museum into a major attraction for both local people and tourists – making it the place to visit to find out about the history and story of Newcastle with a focus on the city’s role in invention and innovation both past and present.”

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The Discovery Museum became the country’s first science museum outside London when it opened in 1934 in Exhibition Park, when it was known as the Municipal Museum of Science and Industry.

It moved to the city centre Blandford House in 1978, was relaunched as the Discovery Museum in 1993, and underwent a £13m revamp that was completed in 2004.

While its latest refurbishment remains in the early stages of development, a report to the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s cabinet on Tuesday stated that bosses want to “set out how the collection and the archive needs to evolve both physically and digitally to meet the needs of future audiences” and explore “a range of options” for how to accommodate them in the city.

A council spokesperson said: “The Discovery Museum is a much-loved symbol of our rich culture and heritage in the region, attracting 350,000 visitors a year before the pandemic. It contains the Tyne and Wear Archives – an invaluable resource that documents and celebrates our great history and people.

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“However, the building is in a serious state of decline and urgently in need of investment. To carry out a comprehensive feasibility study, we have applied for a grant of £147,000 to the North of Tyne Combined Authority which would be used to look at the future of the museum and how it can broaden its appeal to new audiences of all kinds.

“These are very early days and we are just at the start of this project, however, local communities will play a leading role in helping to shape the options that could emerge from this study.”

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