I've visited quite a few museums, some quite well known, but The Discovery Museum in Newcastle Upon Tyne has to be, in my opinion one of the best I have visited for quite a long time.
I say the best because it caters for all ages and makes learning fun for all ages, our family party of five consisted of an age range of 2 years old (my granddaughter) and 84 years old (My Mum) and all had a fantastic time.
The museum is also very disabled friendly (disabled facilities are summarised at the end of my review), it has helpful, informative staff (without being too pushy) Displays and exhibits are varied, colourful, clear, tidy, easy to understand and in various formats. There is a good café and good facilities for grandchildren. The fact that entry is free (although there is a donation box) is the icing on the cake. All these factors make me feel it is a museum well worth a visit.
The Discovery Museum is in Blandford Street, in the centre of Newcastle Upon Tyne, just a few minutes walk from the Central Station which provides rail, metro and bus links and a taxi rank.
The museum is housed in the former headquarters, shop and warehouse of the North Eastern Coop. The exterior of the building retains its original character, but the interior is modern, spacious, light and airy.
There is car parking immediately outside the museum and there are some disabled car parking bays which is excellent for its city centre location, but it is not an extra large car park. I am a blue badge holder and I did manage to get a disabled car parking bay. One of the staff told me that on busy days the car park can get full. When we visited we did so after four days of very warm sunshine, we welcomed the respite from the sun but we guessed many others were out enjoying the sun and that was why it was so easy to get a parking space.
The Museum tells the maritime history and social history of Newcastle Upon Tyne, and the surrounding area. It also has a military exhibition and a science exhibition as well as temporary exhibitions. Each exhibition is in a separate series of rooms, each one listed as a museum in its own right. There is also plenty to keep young children entertained. There is the Play Tyne (under 7') Mini Maze (under 5's) and a Science Maze for all ages.
Each exhibition is illustrated with good audio and visual displays, some in cabinets, some out of cabinets, in many exhibitions there is a separate cinema showing related films.
There are a huge amount of objects to see from small football tickets to full size vintage cars, ships, cannons, engines, machinery, household objects, clothing costumes, the list is endless.
As someone with mobility issues (I need a walking stick). I was very impressed that this venue had taken care to enable a comfortable visit for the less mobile, not just from the obvious point like a good supply of lifts, but from .the less obvious point. For example in the Working lives Exhibition and the Newcastle Story small streets from back in time are recreated. In some venues I have visited the flooring has been changed to recreate the paving of that era and this is not always easy for the less mobile. At the Discovery Museum, the flooring in these "small streets" remains the good quality flooring as in other areas of the museum. I did not find that by retaining good quality flooring adversely affected the authenticity of that particular display
As you leave the car park, level access takes you to automatic doors. There are automatic doors throughout the whole of the venue to all facilities.
The large information desk is immediately inside the museum, from there is ramped and railed interior walkways and wheelchair accessible lifts to guide you through the museum. Walking areas are spacious with solid flooring topped with what is like a raised rubberised pathways. There are plenty of respite seats throughout the venue including chars with and without arms and sofas.
Opposite the information desk in the Reception area there is the Turbinia, a 35 metre vessel, once the fastest ship in the world and the first ship to be powered by steam turbine. It changed the face of marine history. it was built on the Tyne in 1894 by Charles Parsons.
The temporary exhibition of the history of Newcastle United Football Club I found interesting but my husband found it more interesting. It was quite extensive and there was also a cinema showing films of match highlights.
The permanent exhibitions are. The Newcastle story which gives the history of Newcastle Upon Tyne from the Romans to the end of the 20th century.
The Working Lives Museum which provides interesting details of occupations. I enjoyed this exhibition, it certainly "brought home" to me how working lives have changed
The Tyneside Challenge takes you through time exploring the regions rich history of scientific invention.
The Story of the Tyne has a fabulous display of ship models and represents over 150 years of ship building.
There is a small exhibition showing health and health practices in the region with displays of ancient medical equipment.
A Soldiers Life is a rather good exhibition on the first floor which details army life over a two hundred year period.
The Inventors Museum shows the life stories of successful inventors such as Charles Parsons, William Armstrong and Joseph Swan.
Destination Tyneside explores the stories of the people who have made Newcastle Upon Tyne their home.
Our two and a half year old granddaughter absolutely loved the Play Tyne for under 7's. It costs £1 to get in. There is a large model of the River Tyne where children can sail boats, operate bridges and generally have a great time. They are supplied with a waterproof jacked (but it is worth taking a change of clothes for toddlers). She also enjoyed the mini maze for under 5's. There is also the science maze with lots of activity and interactive exhibits for all ages.
We had a light lunch in the cafe which is spacious. Meals can be bought for around £5 a person, light meals, drinks and snacks are available too. Service was good
Throughout the venue there are vending machines selling water and drinks. For those not wanting to visit the café there are eating areas with tables and chairs where you could eat your own packed lunch.
Facilities for the less mobile/disabled include:
Lifts, with voice announcers and Braille indicators on handrails. Two wheelchairs for hire. Standard large print and braille plans available. Assistance dogs welcome Induction loops. Audio points have text versions beside them. Evacu chairs in case of fire. disabled friendly fully accessible toilets on all floors. large print menus in café are available. large handed cutlery and open ended mugs available in café which has level access. seats with arms and without arms. plenty of respite seating. railed walkways with good secure flooring. ramped flooring where appropriate. A light environment without being over bright. automatic doors throughout disabled car parking.
The museum is open from 10 am each day and closes around 5pm do check in advance as these are liable to change.
We had a great afternoon out and we would return.