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Monday, April 22, 2024

Government injects £3 million into Newcastle’s discovery museum rescue mission

Newcastle's Discovery Museum to get £3m for urgent repairs after 'serious decline' warning

A Newcastle museum in a “serious state of decline” has been awarded more than £3 million to pay for repairs.

The Discovery Museum has been given a major boost from the Government’s Cultural Investment Fund (CIF) for renovations at its Blandford House base.

Museum bosses said the cash would be used to fix the roof over the grade II listed building’s Great Hall and to protect its collection from water damage.

It emerged in 2022 that Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) and Newcastle City Council had begun planning a major reimagining of the city centre attraction, which civic centre officials warned had fallen into a “serious state of decline” and was “urgently in need of investment”.

A TWAM spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service on Monday that those plans, which it was also suggested could mean moving the Discovery Museum to a new home elsewhere in the city, are separate to this latest announcement – which is an interim measure designed to protect the museum’s immediate future.

They confirmed that it has not yet been decided whether the Discovery Museum will remain at Blandford House for the long term.

TWAM director Keith Merrin. Image: Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM)

Following the £3.1 million award, the largest allocation in the country from the CIF, TWAM director Keith Merrin said:  “This funding will be used to repair the roof over the magnificent Great Hall which is used for events, some of which provide vital funding for the running of the museum. It will also ensure that the collections housed in the museum stay protected from potential water damage to be preserved for the future and that the museum can continue to offer a fantastic day out for over 200,000 visitors each year.”

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, before moving into the city centre at Blandford House in 1978 and being relaunched in 2004 after a £13m revamp.

It is home to 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 Department for Culture Media and Sport will also be awarding more than £500,000 to Jarrow Hall’s Anglo-Saxon Farm, village and Bede Museum for repairs, while Bishop Auckland’s Killhope Museum will be given just under £500,000.

Newcastle City Council will receive £382,000 to open a new reading facility in a disused section of the Walker Activity Dome, while Sunderland Council’s libraries service has also been given £230,000.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, the arts and heritage minister. Image: Wikipedia

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, the arts and heritage minister, said: “As I’ve had the pleasure of knowing all my life, there is so much incredible culture and history on offer across the North East of England — and always more to discover and enjoy.

“I’m delighted that this important new funding will help these brilliant libraries and museums continue to shape the lives of more people across the North East for generations to come.”

Newcastle City Council director Christine Herriot said the Walker library plans would improve the facility by “bringing unused storage space back into use, give it a new entrance and enable us to widen digital services on offer while putting in place employment support to help residents with training and accessing new job opportunities”.

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