We love International Museum Day!

Happy International Museum Day!

Given that museums are so full of history, and the fact that I just can’t stop myself being a history geek, I thought today was the perfect opportunity to talk about some lesser-known local museum history.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that we’ve only ever had two museums in Middlesbrough, but in fact, there was a second museum which opened after the Dorman and before the Captain Cook Birthplace.

Exhibiting a collection of mammals and birds, and local bygones, a relatively dinky museum lived in rooms in Marton Hall (a beautiful building located in what is now Stewart Park, which was unfortunately lost to fire).  The museum opened on June 18th 1931, but closed in 1939 when the outbreak of WWII required the Fire Brigade to take over the space it was occupying.  Sadly, it never reopened.

This fab little titbit came from The History of Middlesbrough by William Lillie, Borough Librarian (1968).

The Museum, Stewart Park, Middlesbrough
(Postcard from my own collection)


Delving even further back into history, a forerunner to Middlesbrough’s museums opened in 1859.  On Monday, 18 April, the Middlesbrough Polytechnic Exhibition opened at the Oddfellows’ Hall on Bridge Street West.

It was a great collection of objects, some of which fell into neat categories like watercolour paintings, but by far the biggest category was ‘miscellaneous’, so it was probably best described as items from people’s personal collections!

Contributors included HRH Prince Albert, the Earl of Zetland (the Second, Thomas Dundas), local notables HWF Bolckow and messers John and Henry Pease, current and future mayors of Middlesbrough, William Fallows and Edgar Gilkes, and prestigious manufacturers including Minton and Coalbrookdale.

This exhibition was four years before the Middlesbrough Athanaeum – a society organised for the cultivation of literature, science and the arts – was inaugurated (also at the Oddfellows’ Hall), and thirty one years before Middlesbrough’s first ‘museum’ opened to the public in the Town Hall, so it was probably only open to a select group of people.

Pages from the Polytechnic Exhibition programme
(From the Dorman Museum’s collection)


We couldn’t have a blog post about museums without mentioning our two gems.

The Dorman Memorial Museum opened in 1904, a gift to the town from Sir Arthur Dorman, in memory of his son George Lockwood Dorman, who died in the Boer War.  Dorman Museum The museum originally showcased the impressive personal collections of notable local figures, including Ancient Roman and Egyptian artefacts, and the extensive T. H. Nelson ornithological collection, which was bequeathed to the museum in 1914.

Today, the museum holds the largest public collection of stunning locally-produced Linthorpe Art Pottery in the world, and a highly impressive collection of items designed by the visionary Victorian industrial designer, Dr. Christopher Dresser.

The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum opened on the 28th October 1978 Captain Cook Birthplace Museum – the 250th anniversary of Cook’s birth. Its site in Stewart Park is close to the granite urn which marks the site of the cottage where Cook was born.

The galleries tell the story of the world-famous navigator, from his birth in Marton to his voyages.  It also has fab temporary exhibitions on Cook-related themes like seafaring, Pacific animals, and Australian Aboriginal life.

So there you go, a full on history geek post for International Museum Day!

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#ETW17: Middlesbrough’s museums and culture

Dorman Museum

Middlesbrough’s first museum, the Dorman Museum, tells the fascinating history of our wonderful town.Dorman Museum in the spring
As well as local history, the museum has the world’s largest public collection of Linthorpe Art Pottery (world-renowned in the Victorian era and produced just a mile away from where the museum now stands), and an internationally-significant collection of items designed by the surprisingly forward-thinking Victorian industrial designer, Dr. Christopher Dresser, who was for a time the Art Superintendent at the Linthorpe Pottery. (Sorry, geeking out a little over the Dresser collection here!)

Plus, Dressers Tea Room at the museum is adorably cute and very traditional, and does amazing cake (I should know, I’ve eaten a lot of it!)

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

Middlesbrough’s second museum is dedicated to one of the world’s greatest navigators, Captain James Cook.Pacific Predators at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

Cook was born in a cottage which once stood close to where the museum stands today – a granite urn, placed there by legendary Middlesbrough industrialist Henry Bolckow, marks the spot.

After a £500,000 government grant, the museum, which is in the heart of the beautiful Stewart Park, is being transformed, with refurbishments to the first floor and the creation of a new temporary gallery space – which means even more Cook for your buck (sorry)! After the epic Pacific Predators exhibition last year, we can’t wait to see what 2017 brings at the Cook!

Middlesbrough Town Hall

If you’ve been checking our Instagram, you’ll have seen that we recently got a sneaky behind the scenes tour of the multi-million pound renovations currently taking place at the Town Hall. Middlesbrough Town Hall sneak peekBeing a bit (okay, a lot) of a history geek, I’m super excited that they’ll be restoring some of the most historic areas of the building, like the old courtroom and police cells.
But it’s not just the heritage which will benefit; the main concert hall is also being completely refurbished, and work is taking place which will help visitors to have an even better experience when they go to massive concerts and gigs with comedy legends. (We’re talking about boring but essential things like toilets, and exciting and very essential things like the bar!) As Sarah Millican would say, champion!

Middlesbrough Theatre

Middlesbrough Theatre was opened by Sir John Gielgud in 1957 – so happy 60th birthday for this year! – and was one of the first theatres built in England after the Second World War. The theatre plays host to a packed programme of productions, from unique shows by local playwrights to crowd-pleasers like The Ladyboys of Bangkok – not bad for a theatre was originally named the ‘Little Theatre’. With over 450 seats, it’s not really that little!

Galleries

You’d be forgiven for wondering where all of Middlesbrough’s galleries are, because we have some little gems which are hidden away off the beaten track.Neon and That by Stuart Langley
The House of Blah Blah lives in what was Victorian Middlesbrough’s post office, neatly tucked away in Exchange Square right by Teesside Archives. Hosting everything from exhibitions of neon artworks to Christmas markets to warehouse parties, it’s definitely one of the town’s most unique spaces.
In contrast, the more traditional gallery spaces, Python Gallery and the Heritage Gallery at Cargo Fleet, exhibit paintings, photography, and other works from local artists. mima brings things up to the minute with modern art, discussing themes including housing, migration, inequality, and regeneration through their exhibitions.

Transporter Bridge

A blog about Middlesbrough wouldn’t be a blog about Middlesbrough without a mention of the Transporter Bridge.Transporter Bridge on a sunny day

Our beautiful blue dragonfly isn’t just a handy way to cross between Middlesbrough and Stockton, it’s also one of the country’s premier extreme sports venues (abseiling or bungee jumping, anyone?) and an attraction in its own right.  Standing over 150ft above the River Tees, the views from the top are pretty magnificent, and the new glass lift is the perfect way to get up there and see them. You can book a glass lift tour online.

Middlesbrough skyline from the Transporter Bridge

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