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Trail-blazing female naturalists to feature as part of the Great Exhibition of the North

8th June 2018

Credit and Copyright ©: Colin Davison +44 (0)7850 609 340 colin@rosellastudios.com www.rosellastudios.com

This summer, the Great Exhibition of the North (22 June – 9 September) descends on the Great North Museum: Hancock which, alongside the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the Sage Gateshead will act as a hub for activities throughout the season.

Among the events taking place here will be Which Way North, a special exhibition throughout the building exploring the heart and soul of Northern England through stories of its pioneering innovators, designers and artists. With content conceived by guest curator Gráinne Sweeney, Which Way North has been produced by the Great North Museum: Hancock team and will feature 250 items borrowed from more than 100 lenders. Visitors will be able to experience the museum as they’ve never seen it before, with star attractions including:

  • Damien Hirst’s Heaven, 2008-2009, on loan from Damien Hirst / Science Ltd.
  • A rare miniature book created by Charlotte Brontë, from the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
  • Dame Vivienne Westwood’spirate ensemble, from the V&A Museum.
  • David Hockney’s Le Parc des Sources, Vichy, 1970, from Chatsworth House.
  • John Harrison’s marine timekeeper H4, from Royal Museums Greenwich.
  • The sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who, designed by Dan Walker and used by Matt Smith’s Doctor, from BBC Studios.

These new highlights join major loans already announced, such as Helen Sharman’s space suit, the last piano played by John Lennon and George Stubbs’ iconic painting Whistlejacket.


Of course, given NHSN’s ties to the Great North Museum: Hancock and the pioneering nature of its members, past and present, it would have been rude not to use the opportunity provided by the Great Exhibition of the North to showcase their work. As such, we are proud to present to you our Women Naturalists Exhibition, designed to highlight the fantastic contribution of female naturalists to the study of natural history in North-East England.

Through a series of informative events we aim to provide an insight into the lives of the women who dedicated their lives to the study of nature in our region. The trailblazers who, through their own actions, greatly increased our knowledge of the world around us and helped shape the vibrant field of natural history in North-East England. Many of whom contributed just as much, if not more, than their male counterparts during their years of activity.

Great Exhibition of the North visitors will be able to enjoy a range of events and talks including:

  • A drop-in session centred on the life and work of naturalist Kathleen Blackburn, led by Alan Hart and featuring an opportunity to view rarely seen photos, samples and past articles.
  • An exclusive reading of Portrait of an Artist as an Island Flower – a poem inspired by Margaret Rebecca Dickinson’s 1874 expedition to Holy Island, brought to you by award-winning poet and PhD student, Linda France.
  • A talk on the life and legacy of naturalist, campaigner and NHSN stalwart, Grace Hickling. Delivered by Farne Islands Archivist, Anne Wilson.

You can view our full range of events here.

As part of the exhibition we will also display a permanent showcase in the NHSN library where visitors can view archive material, artefacts and written work relating to multiple female pioneers. A special event, open only to NHSN members, will also be held to allow for closer viewing of our female pioneer’s exhibit. Led by Claire Jones, this event will allow members to hear, first hand, the exciting titbits uncovered during Claire’s time working on the exhibit and provides the perfect opportunity for a friendly, informal catch-up between members.

Grace Hickling