The Hancock Museum is a museum of natural history in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, established in 1884. In 2006 it merged with Newcastle University's Hatton Gallery to form the Great North Museum. The museum and all of its collections are owned by the Natural History Society of Northumbria, although it is managed by Tyne and Wear Museums on behalf of Newcastle University. The museum reopened as the Great North Museum: Hancock in May 2009 following a major extension and refurbishment of the original Victorian building.

The museum is located on the campus of Newcastle University, next to the Great North Road, and close to Barras Bridge. The nearest Tyne & Wear Metro station is Haymarket, and there is also a bus station at Haymarket.

The collection of the Hancock Museum can be traced to about 1780 when Marmaduke Tunstall started accumulating ethnographic and natural history material from around the world. He then brought his collection from London to North Yorkshire. In 1791 Tunstall died, and George Allan of Darlington purchased Tunstall's collection, and later in 1823 it was acquired by the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne. The museum opened on its current site in 1884 after the collection of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne (now the Natural History Society of Northumbria) outgrew its small museum, located on Westgate Road, which opened in 1834. The Natural History Society was founded in 1829 as an offshoot of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne, which itself was founded in 1793. A major benefactor to the museum was William Armstrong who gave the then large sum of £11,500. Armstrong had also founded the College of Physical Science which later became part of Newcastle University. The museum was re-named in the 1890s, after the local Victorian naturalists, Albany and John Hancock. In 1959 the Natural History Society agreed with the University of Newcastle for the University to care for the building and collections, and since 1992 the University have contracted with Tyne & Wear Museums to manage the Museum under a Service Level Agreement.

Great North Museum
The museum was closed on 23 April 2006 for refurbishment and did not reopen until 23 May 2009. It has been completely refurbished and extended as part of the Great North Museum Project, at a cost of £26 million. It includes new displays on natural history and geology, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, Romans and Hadrian's Wall, World Cultures and Pre-history. It also includes an interactive study zone, an under 5's space, and a digital Planetarium, as well as new learning facilities, a new temporary exhibition space, and a study garden. The new museum houses not only the Hancock Museum collections, but also those of the University's Museum of Antiquities and Shefton Museum. The Hatton Gallery is also a part of the Great North Museum Project, but is not relocating to the Hancock, and is remaining in Newcastle University's Fine Art Building. In September 2008, the Great North Museum searched for a look-a-like of the Emperor Hadrian, for a photo shoot, whose likeness would feature in a permanent display at the Hancock Museum. On 21 November 2008 the 'Be Part of It' campaign was launched, and it was announced that the Great North Museum: Hancock would be opening in May 2009. Athlete Jonathan Edwards is the patron of the 'Be Part of It' campaign. Other celebrity supporters of the museum include Sir Thomas Allen and Adam Hart-Davis. Donors to the campaign have the opportunity to have their name (or the name of a loved one) permanently included on a donor wall in the museum. The Great North Museum formally re-opened on 23 May 2009. In August the museum announced that they had surpassed their expected annual target of 300,000 visitors. By August over 400,000 people had visited the reopened museum. On 6 November 2009 HM The Queen officially opened the Great North Museum. By August 2010 the reopened Great North Museum had welcomed its one millionth visitor.

Among the Museum's permanent residents are a life-size cast of an African elephant; the Egyptian mummy Bakt-hor-Nekht; a full size replica of a T-Rex skeleton; and Sparkie, Newcastle’s famous talking budgie, who was stuffed after his death in 1962 and is now the subject of a new opera by Michael Nyman. The full size cast of an African Elephant was built in the Belgium Living Planet gallery. The model was crafted by Zephyr Wildlife, who took a cast from an actual stuffed elephant at the Bonn Museum in Germany. To get the elephant into the museum, a crane, from Bel Lift Trucks, had to be used. The full size model of a T-Rex dinosaur has been shipped from Canada, where it was built by a company called Research Casting International. It forms part of the display known as the Fossil Stories gallery. The T-Rex model was one of the first items to be placed in the new museum, due to its size. The museum has been entered into the 'long list' for the 2010 Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries.

The Great North Museum Library is open to the public and is located on the second floor of the Hancock. It houses three collections - the Library and Archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, the Library of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne and Newcastle University’s Cowen Library.


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