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Bid to Improve Archive Treasure

7th May 2014

Dinosaur bones, giant Japanese crabs and Egyptian mummies are not the only treasures in the GreatNorthMuseum: Hancock. The archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria contain many valuable artworks, photographs, manuscript letters, diaries, notebooks and other items relating to the museum, its collections and renowned local naturalists such as Thomas Bewick.

The Society has just received initial support* from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help improve the archive and make it more available to the public. Development funding of £1,600 has been awarded to help the local charity progress their plans to apply for a full grant of £158,400 next year.

June Holmes the Society’s volunteer archivist is delighted: “If we are successful this 3-year project will transform the long-term management, preservation and access to our important archive collection. The project will include cataloguing the collection and making the most important and popular material available on-line. Projects will also take place with groups of young people and schools and new volunteers will be recruited and trained to help care for the collection.”

The Society is still collecting items for future generations and in recent years they have received a generous donation of manuscript diaries and notes by the late James Alder, the well loved local wildlife artist. The diaries, presented by the Alder family, cover his life-long passion for studying the small native water bird called the Dipper on the Devil’s Water near Hexham.

As a result of a recent exhibition in the Great North Museum: Hancock about James and his art work, the Society was delighted to also receive two unique pieces through the Alder family, an amazing bronze statue called the ‘Young Pegasus’ and James Alder’s unique artist’s copy of ‘A Dipper feeding its young’ which he had created for Royal Worcester in the 1970s. The positive response to this small exhibition has galvanised the Society into trying to raise funds to buy additional Alder material, including a set of art works completed by Alder in his early years as artist in residence to the Evening Chronicle. Anyone wishing to make a donation towards this fund should contact the Society 0191 232 6386 or