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GNM: Hancock 15

Celebrating 15 years of the Great North Museum: Hancock

Published on: 24 May 2024

It's been 15 years since the renowned architect Sir Terry Farrell gave the Hancock Museum a makeover, transforming it into the Great North Museum: Hancock.


Newcastle University's award-winning Museum boasts a towering replica of a T Rex skeleton, known as 'Big Mike', an awe-inspiring Greek art and archaeology collection, the North East's best-value Planetarium and a temporary exhibition space known for housing some of the largest touring exhibitions.   

To mark this milestone, we look back at some of the exhibitions, star objects and moments that have captivated audiences over the past decade and a half.    

Back in 2009, the Museum staged its first major exhibition. 'Body of Evidence', on loan from the British Museum, opened on the 25th anniversary of Lindow Man's discovery. The discovery of Lindow Man (a 1st century AD bog body) in 1984 raised many questions and despite the best efforts of archaeologists, forensic scientists and museum curators, the reason for his death remains a mystery to this day. 

A slippery situation. In 2010, former residents, Royal Pythons Sid and Holly escaped their enclosures. Holly was found quickly, but meter-long Sid was on the loose in the Museum for a month. 

Fast-forward to 2018, and the Museum became a vital part of the Great Exhibition of the North. Hundreds of fascinating items from the UK's leading museums, galleries, and private collections went on display at the Museum, including Helen Sharman's Zvezda SOKOL space suit and John Lennon's iconic Record Plant piano.   

Dippy visits Newcastle. 'Dippy' – a Diplodocus skeleton cast – visited the Museum in 2019 as part of an unprecedented National History Museum national tour. Unveiled to the British public in 1905, Dippy was cast from the type specimen found in America. After living in London for over 100 years, Dippy visited some of the UK's best family Museums.  

2021 saw the reimagining of seven Roman alters in vivid colour. A collaboration between the Museum and Hadrian's Wall Community Archaeology Project, working alongside creative studio NOVAK, resulted in animated videos being projected directly onto the stone surfaces, giving visitors a sense of how colourful the alters were when they were first made around 1900 years ago.    

And let's not forget the legendary taking budgerigar. Among the Museum's unique residents is Sparkie Williams, a talking budgie who won the BBC International Cage Word Contest in July 1958 and even inspired an opera. After his death, he was preserved and can now be found in the Museum's Living Planet gallery along with a giant Japanese spider crab and a full-size model of an elephant.  

This year, the Museum aims to ignite imaginations with 3D visualisations of ancient Rome with 'Rome Transformed', delve into the science of cutting-edge cosmic exploration with 'Space Investigators – Astronomy in the North East', and examine the concept of the afterlife in 'Psyche: Where Did the Soul Go?'. 

The Museum is open daily with free entry for a great value day out. For full details of exhibitions, the opening times, events, and facilities available, please visit the website:

Big Mike, the T-Rex skeleton at the Great North Museum: Hancock

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