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GNM sanctuary

Newcastle University attractions recognised as Museums of Sanctuary

Published on: 19 February 2024

The Great North Museum: Hancock and Hatton Gallery, which are managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, have been recognised as Museums of Sanctuary by the charity City of Sanctuary UK.

Above and beyond

Sanctuary Awards are presented to organisations that go above and beyond to welcome people seeking sanctuary. Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums’ venues – which includes other museums, art galleries, Roman forts and a heritage railway – received the accolade following a successful appraisal by a panel of four judges.

Newcastle University became a University of Sanctuary in 2021.

Professor Vee Pollock, Dean of Culture and Creative Arts at Newcastle University, said: “Working closely with TWAM through our venues, the Hatton Gallery and Great North Museum: Hancock, we see the fantastic work that colleagues do with communities. This recognition in becoming a Museum of Sanctuary is richly deserved and as a University of Sanctuary we look forward to working with them to continue to warmly welcome and support all of our communities.”


Multaka North East volunteer Yan Tam, pictured in the Ancient Greece gallery at Great North Museum: Hancock

Positive action

Sanctuary Award winners must demonstrate that they have: learned what it means to be seeking sanctuary; taken positive action to include asylum seekers and refugees; and let others know about the positive contribution of people seeking sanctuary and the benefits of a welcoming culture to all.

Clare Smith, Learning and Engagement Manager at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said:

“Museums and galleries are at the heart of the UK’s town and cities. That makes us well placed to celebrate the achievements and contributions of everyone in our communities – including sanctuary seekers.

“We'll continue to use our Museums of Sanctuary to promote a society that is fairer, more compassionate and more welcoming.”

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums’ application was appraised by two City of Sanctuary UK representatives and two ambassadors with lived experience of migration and asylum. The panel was particularly impressed by:

·         Multaka North East (a volunteering programme)

·         The organisation’s commitment to staff awareness training, and

·         The role it has played in coordinating community networks and events.

Multaka – which means ‘meeting point’ in Arabic – is a museum volunteering project for people with a migration background. Members of the group have explored different museum collections and gone on to create written exhibition guides and video tours in English, as well as their own first languages.

Yan Tam, Multaka North East volunteer, said:

“I love being part of the group because we can support each other and share advice about daily life in Newcastle. It’s been good to practise speaking English as well.

“We’re learning about the history of Newcastle through art. The Laing and Hatton art galleries are my favourites.”

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums has been working with Newcastle’s West End Refugee Service (WERS) to deliver awareness training for staff. It has also linked up with North East charity Connected Voice to create and deliver bespoke staff training sessions focusing on understanding different cultures.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums is a founder-member of the North East Sanctuary and Culture Network, a group set up to develop a collaborative approach to supporting refugees and asylum seekers among the region’s cultural organisations. As part of the network, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums led the coordination of a programme of activity to celebrate Refugee Week 2023 in Newcastle and Gateshead.

Cllr Paula Maines, Cabinet member for a Resilient City at Newcastle City Council, said:

“It is clear that Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums has developed a culture of welcome and inclusion over a number of years and its commitment to this work was obvious to the Sanctuary panel from the application.

“I’d like to say thank you to the staff and volunteers for all the hard work that has gone into this achievement and congratulations on being recognised as Museums of Sanctuary.”

Sanctuary Awards are an initiative of City of Sanctuary UK. Founded in Sheffield in 2005, City of Sanctuary coordinates, supports and grows networks of welcome across the UK for people forced to flee their homes. The awards recognise the work of all kinds of organisations, from community groups, schools, and universities to local councils, libraries, theatres and museums.

Other designated Sanctuary organisations in Newcastle and Gateshead include Newcastle City Council, Newcastle City Library, Newcastle West End Foodbank and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.


Press release adapted with thanks to Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums


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