Newcastle museums and galleries' reopening dates and visitor information

Much-loved art galleries and museums around Newcastle are finally able to reopen their doors after months of lockdown and just in time for a visit before the school holidays draw to a close. City centre favourites such as Discovery Museum and Great North Museum: Hancock usually draw crowds of visitors over the summer with their school holiday programmes of activities which have been much missed during lockdown. Some venues, including Laing Art Gallery, have already recently reopened but the good news now is that the others have now announced their reopening dates and what changes visitors can expect to see upon their return.

So, for those who want to plan a visit – and in most cases pre-booking is now essential – we have drawn up a guide to what’s happening where and when at main venues in Newcastle and acoss the wider region. It incudes links to individual websites to find the full information on the range of Covid-19 safety measures in place and the venues’ opening times.

The Great North Museum: Hancock

Reopening date – September 1 Covid-19 safety measures – one-way routes, increased cleaning and reduced capacities to aid social distancing.

Tickets – free tickets offering timeslots for the first two weeks will be available to book here from 6pm on August 18. Attractions – two special temporary exhibitions – Other Worlds and Ancient Iraq – opened just before lockdown and, to give more visitors a chance to see them, the museum has managed to secure extensions meaning both displays can now run until November 1. A small number of other galleries and interactive displays will remain closed for now.

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Caroline McDonald, executive manager at the museum, said: “Visitors bring the museum to life and we’re very excited to be welcoming back our community after so long.

“It may feel different at first, but we are still bursting with stories to be discovered and curious corners to explore.”

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Discovery Museum

Reopening date – September 1 Note: Tyne & Wear Archives on the museum’s ground floor will not open until later autumn. Covid-19 safety measures – one-way routes, increased cleaning and reduced capacity to aid social distancing.

Tickets – free tickets will be available to book here from 6pm on August 18. Attractions – the museum’s recently acquired Red Arrows capsule simulator will be available to enjoy by visitors from the same support bubble who will need to book online in advance. New Discover Her Story gallery panels throughout the museum will showcase pioneering Tyneside women’s contributions to the region.

A small number of galleries and interactive displays will remain closed for now.

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Carolyn Ball, executive manager at the museum, said: “Discovery Museum has been a quiet place without visitors – we can’t wait to open the doors and welcome people back! “Our dedicated staff has been meticulously cleaning across three floors and putting measures in place to ensure the safest possible experience for staff and visitors.”

Laing Art Gallery

Reopening date – the gallery has already reopened, having been among the first wave to welcome back visitors on August 10. Covid-19 safety measures – signs to mark a one-way route around the gallery; extra cleaning and the collection of Test and Trace information.

Tickets – Buy exhibition tickets here. The Laing‘s free displays, however, will not require booking in advance. Attractions – an exhibition called William and Evelyn De Morgan: Two of the Rarest Spirits of the Age It had opened just before the gallery’s lockdown closure and, having lost out on months of visitors, its run now has been extended until September 26.

Featuring 21 works, it is one of the largest ever exhibitions of the work of the Victorian painter and her ceramicist husband and it incudes a 1907 painting – Our Lady of Peace – which is being seen for the first time since a major 2018 conservation. Julie Milne, chief curator at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said: “While we’re absolutely delighted to be able to welcome visitors again, it’s our top priority to ensure the safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers so we’ve been working hard to make sure that people feel safe and looked after when they visit.”

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Shipley Art Gallery

Reopening date – August 25 Covid-19 safety measures – a one-way route; hand sanitiser stations; increased cleaning regimes and encouragement of contactless payments.

The Gateshead gallery has signed up for the Visit Britain Good to Go mark: the industry standard meaning venues follow Covid-19 guidelines. Visitors need to wear a face covering and areas where social distancing would be difficult will remain closed for now. These include the lounge, the workshop and the Henry Rothschild Study Centre.

Tickets – there is no need to book in advance. Attractions – Treasures from the Shipley Art Gallery Collection; the Designs for Life gallery showcasing craft and design; the Saltwell Park Museum exhibition and the current still life exhibition Excess and the Everyday. See here.

Stephenson Railway Museum

Reopening date – the North Shields attraction had intended opening on August 21 but now says that due to unforeseen essential maintenance work it can’t meet this date.

It is instead hoping to reopen – and run its popular heritage train rides – on August 28, 30 and Bank Holiday Monday, August 31 but these dates have yet to be confirmed. From then, it then intends to open on Sundays – September 6, 13, 20 and 27 and October 4, 11, 18, 25 – as well as on October 29 – and November 1. Pre-booking will be essential.

Covid-19 safety measures – the museum, outdoor spaces and toilets will be open but some areas will remain closed until deemed safe. Fewer people will be admitted into the museum and some of the seats on the heritage train rides will be out of use to ensure enough space for social distancing. Tickets – Visits have to be pre-booked.

See here. Attractions – The Stephensons – Railway Pioneers will tell the story of the North East’s George and Robert Stephenson and will have as its centrepiece Stephenson’s Billy, recently revealed to be the third oldest existing locomotive in the world.

South Shields Museum & Art Gallery

Reopening date – the South Shields museum opened on August 13 Covid-19 safety measures – the venue has been awarded the We’re Good To Go Covid-19 industry standard from Visit Britain.

Changes include fewer visitors at any one time, ground floor displays while the upper level of the building remains closed, a one-way system, social distancing measures, strict cleaning regimes and encouragement of contactless payment. Tickets – ticketed time slots can be pre-booked here. For those unable to book online there will be a small allocation of daily ‘walk-in’ tickets.

Attractions – The Landing Craft Tank exhibition showcasing a wartime piece of local shipyard history launched just before lockdown It tells the story of the LCT 7074 which was built in 1943 as one of six landing craft tanks built at the R & W Hawthorn Leslie & Co. Ltd shipyard in Hebburn, featuring a modified LCT design – the Mark 3.

And the so-called Yard number 677 – which became LCT 7074 – was one of the craft to take part in Operation Overlord during the Allied invasion of occupied France. Visitors also can learn about local social, industrial and maritime history from 4,000 years ago.

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

Reopening – the museum is now open Covid-19 safety measures – having had a phased reopening, all floor spaces are now open, including the shop, galleries, library, and Winter Gardens.

Visitors have to wear a face covering. Numbers are restricted; there’s a one-way ‘keep left’ policy; hand sanitisers and track-and-trace. See here.

Tickets – the museum is free entry. Attractions – Wallace the Lion – part of a touring wild animal show (when it was alive) which visited Sunderland during the 1800s – is the museum’s most famous exhibit but it has a vast collection showcasing Sunderland’s history dating back to 1846. Objects incude the first Nissan car to roll off the production line at the Sunderland factory in 1986 while the art gallery features work by LS Lowry who spent a lot of time in Sunderland.

The Winter Gardens has more than 2,000 plants under its glass rotunda and a tree-top walkway, though this may be closed for now.

The Bowes Museum

Reopening date – the County Durham attraction has already reopened. Covid-19 safety measures – hand sanitiser stations throughout the museum and grounds, extra cleaning regimes and restricted use of the lift to only those in need. Entry to the museum is through a separate doorway to the exits.

Its revolving doors are out of use. The red Ceramics Gallery is also restricted access for now. Tickets – visitors are asked to pre-book and their tickets will be scanned on entry.

See here. Attractions – there are three new visitor draws at the museum in Barnard Castle: the Norman Cornish: The Definitive Collection exhibition running until January 17; Pre-Raphaelite Knights: Reinventing the Medieval World exhibition running until the end of September, and a workshop programme ‘ blimey! Lucretia’ for families throughout the summer holidays.

Its famous 18th Century Silver Swan exhibit – a moving life-size showpiece – is not currently on display but visitors can watch a video of its movements.

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