43. See the animals at the Great North Museum: Hancock

The Great North Museum: Hancock (formerly – and still frequently referred to as simply – the Hancock) was established in Newcastle in 1884. It was originally named after John Hancock, a local ornithologist and naturalist who was considered to be the father of modern taxidermy, and his brother Albany; a naturalist and biologist.

A tribute to the brothers is on the wall inside the museum entrance.

The museum merged with the Hatton Gallery of Newcastle University in 2006 and, after a period of closure, reopened as the Great North Museum: Hancock in 2009.

I have slightly mixed feelings about the GNM, which I think is why it’s taken me so long to write this blog. I remember some enjoyable trips there as a child, but my more recent experiences there were with my last job and so largely involved trying to keep bored teenagers in check.

It seemed only fair to give the museum another chance and so, after having enjoyed lunch and tea at Quilliam Brothers, Neil and I headed there.

The GNM has permanent exhibitions on Hadrian’s Wall, Ancient Egypt, Ice Age to Iron Age, World Cultures and the Shefton Collection as well as a planetarium, an interactive zone and an area for the under 5s. There’s a lot to see there, but the reason I go (as you might have guessed from this blog’s title…) is to see the models of the animals and dinosaurs.

I always feel a little guilty when I visit a museum if I don’t try to see every part of it, but I kind of think that attitude might only be setting me up for failure. On this occasion therefore, although we wandered through all areas, stopping at anything that caught our eye…

We spent the majority of our time just admiring the different animals and dinosaurs. I love seeing all of the life size models and using the interactive information points to find out more about them. My favourite facts from this trip include:

Zebras stripes supposedly break up the outlines of each animal in the herd so that it’s harder for predators to single out one individual zebra to attack.

The spray from skunks can temporarily blind predators.

Meerkats live in groups with up to 30 members and take turns to do different chores, including being on sentry duty.

It was genuinely really nice to spend a day doing something a little different and definitely helped to bring back my good memories of the GNM, rather than the recent angry adolescent filled ones. Although we didn’t make it to the planetarium this time, I have been on past trips and fully recommend it – it even managed to keep the aforementioned adolescents quiet!


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