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Hancock Museum Collection

People have been donating animal, plant and mineral specimens and ethnographic material to the Society for 200 years with the result that we now have an internationally important and fascinating collection of half a million items. This includes dinosaur fossils, the bones, skins or preserved specimens of birds, mammals, and invertebrates, plants, minerals, Egyptian mummies and ethnographic items from around the world.

The Hancock Museum, photographed in 1929

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Many items from the NHSN’s collections are on display to the public in the Great North Museum: Hancock  but a great many more are held in a special storage facility nearby in the Discovery Museum, where they can be accessed for research purposes by prior appointment.

Our museum collection can be searched online with Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums collection search. The collection search includes items from all TWAM museums and organizations.

To limit your search to NHSN collections, add NEWHM to your list of keywords.

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The Tsar and the Fabulous Russian Mineral Collection

The Great North Museum: Hancock boasts a fantastic collection of over 800 valuable mineral specimens which were presented to the Natural History Society, in 1838, by his Imperial Highness the Emperor of Russia, Tsar Nicholas I. At his specific request, nine cases of the finest minerals, fossils and mammoth teeth where shipped to Newcastle from the Museum of the St. Petersburg Mining Institute. The letters and documents recounting the story are housed in our Archives.


Captain James Leask – Hero or Villain

This American Indian or Inuit canoe and all of the associated hunting gear, currently on display in our World Cultures Gallery, was presented to the Natural History Society in 1837 by Captain James Leask from a voyage he made to Greenland in 1835-36. It is a remarkable historical artefact but the story of the Captain and his fateful journey is even more astonishing.


Sparkie Williams the World Famous Talking Budgerigar (1954-1962)

Sparkie became famous after winning a speaking bird contest in 1958. He appeared on TV, radio, and in the press and even made his own hit records! After his death he was preserved and mounted and is one of the Great North Museum: Hancock's most treasured items. The heart-warming story of Sparkie and his owner Mattie Williams continues to fascinate the public and inspire artists and writers.


The Hancock Mermaid

Look out for our Mermaid in the Explore! Gallery of the Great North Museum: Hancock. She’s hiding in one of the specimen drawers.


John Hancock’s ‘Monster Crab’ – The Giant Japanese Spider Crab

One of the most impressive specimens on display in the Great North Museum: Hancock is the Giant Japanese Spider Crab, which is over 120 years old.


Eric the Polar Bear

Eric, the Polar Bear, is one of our oldest and most treasured specimens and he can still be seen on display in the Living Planet Gallery of the Great North Museum: Hancock.


The Governor’s Wombat

One of the most famous and well-loved specimens in the collections of the Natural History Society of Northumbria is our stuffed Wombat. On permanent display in the Great North Museum: Hancock’s Explore Gallery, our Wombat has been nominated many times by visitors as their favourite object even taking centre stage in the local ‘Objects of Desire’ exhibition in 2000.


The Crystal Palace Pterodactyl

Hidden away in a display case in the Fossil Stories room of the Great North Museum: Hancock is a small model which could so easily be overlooked but this intriguing mid 19th century object has an amazing story to tell.


Newcastle Mummies

The Natural History Society of Northumbria has two significant mummies in its Egyptian collections. The exquisitely decorated and intact mummy of Bakt-en-Hor (previously Bakt-hor-nekht) and the unwrapped 22nd dynasty mummy of Irtyru (previously Irt-irw), both from the ancient city of Thebes.


The Andean Condor

One of the most surprising, remarkable, and it has to be said, rather unlikely stories associated with the Hancock Museum, is that of our female Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus).


Egyptology Collection

The majority of the NHSN’s ancient Egyptian collection derives from donations by 19th century private collectors, including two mummies, and from subscription to early 20th century excavations conducted by the […]


The Blaschka Glass Models of Sea Anemones

An outstanding collection of exquisitely detailed glass models of sea anemones.


The Great Auk (Alca Impennis)

The Great Auk, a flightless auk of the northern seas, was hunted to extinction; the last two birds of the species, it is alleged, were killed on Eldey Island, near […]


The Hawaiian Feathered God Head

There is a fascinating wickerwork head on display in our World Cultures Gallery, a rare example of the indigenous religious culture in Hawaii. Its ferocious features where designed to intimidate any invading warriors intent on gaining new territory from the resident tribe.


Wilson's I'iwi

The intriguing story behind a small red stuffed bird from Hawaii by Dan Gordon (the museum's Keeper of Biology).


The Letters of Sir Flinders Petrie in the Museum Archives

The Whitby Ichthyosaur

John G Watson and his Chinese Coin Collection

The Singing Sands

Rocks, Minerals and Fossils (Geofinder)

Exploring Moana at the GNM: Hancock

In the late 1950s the Society could no longer afford to run the Hancock Museum and adequately care for our collection and so Newcastle University kindly agreed to lease these from us on a 99 year lease. The University is now responsible for the curation and care of our collection. Since the 1990s they have contracted Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) to carry out this work on their behalf.

If you would like to donate any items to the museum collection or if you are interested in researching any items in our collection please contact TWAM on 0191 208 6784 or email