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Tom Russell Goddard

T Russell Goddard (1889-1948) was employed as the Hancock Museum Curator from 1923 until his death in 1948.

The Hancock Museum, photographed in 1929

During the Second World War, the Hancock Museum was under significant financial strain. As a result of this, the curator of the museum, T Russell Goddard, took up an appointment in the Civil Defence Department of the Home Office. He was an operations officer in the war room situated in Watson House, Newcastle.  Goddard left the museum for this post in 1939, and did not return until January 15th 1945. During his absence, Miss Gladys M Scott took over as acting curator.

Prior to becoming curator of the Hancock Museum, Goddard received technical training at Leicester Museum, as well as at Sunderland. Goddard became the curator of the Hancock Museum in 1923, after the departure of E Leonard Gill. In the early 1920s the Museum was still recovering from the destabalising effects of the First World War. Goddard worked on restoring the museum and re-displaying collections hitherto moved into storage.

During his tenure, Goddard notably wrote a History of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne, 1829-1929. This was completed in 1929, marking the centenary of the Natural History Society. Before his departure in 1939, Goddard oversaw the removal of specimens to storage as an air raid precaution. Many of these specimens were taken to various country houses, including Cragside for safe keeping, to be returned after the end of the war.

After his return in 1945 Goddard sought to rehabilitate the museum and as well as overseeing the return of many specimen from storage, Goddard also brought the printing press back into operation. This allowed the museum to print its own labels, many of which had been removed or destroyed.  During this time, the Museum Management Committee was formed and Goddard was appointed as secretary and led a number of schemes that sought to develop the museum and its collections further.

Goddard enjoyed visiting the Farne Islands and was an active member of the Farne Islands Committee of the National Trust. He was recognised for writing A Guide to the Farne Islands as well as producing annual reports on the Farne Islands Bird Sanctuary. He was also a fellow of the Linnean Society for over 20 years, and he was a member of the British Ornithologists’ Union and for a period of time had acted as the secretary for the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Counties.  In 1935, the University of Durham presented him with an honorary degree of Master of Science.

On October 17th 1948, Goddard died having experienced declining health and at this point he had served as curator to the museum for 25 years. In the aftermath of his death, Miss Gladys M Scott readopted her role from during the war as acting curator until a successor was appointed.

With a love and understanding of his subject, coupled with a very pleasant manner, he was always ready to help students of natural history. 

Natural History Society Annual Report 1948

To celebrate the Society’s 100th birthday Goddard, published a book, The History of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne 1829-1929. You can download this book in sections: Pages 1-24Pages 24-61Pages 62-95Pages 96-131Pages 132-165Pages 166-195 and a new Index. Alternatively this book is available from our library.