This is a small museum covering the social history of the area with some natural history thrown in. The archaeology galleries were refurbished a couple of years ago but many of the other exhibits are unchanged for as long as I can remember. There is a rolling program of temporary exhibits which vary from the history of Scunthorpe United to Riley’s crisps and local art exhibitions. The museum also provides a number of activities during the week from Tot’s time for the under fives to reminiscence sessions for the over 60s. There are also craft activities at weekends.
The museum is in the old Victorian Vicarage of nearby St Lawrence’s Church and surrounded by nice gardens with trees and spring bulbs. It it is only appropriate that one of the rooms should be furnishes as a Victorian parlour complete with all the nicknacks and fripperies.
The contrast with the furnished 18thC iron stone workers cottage rebuilt next to the museum is stark. Life then was hard.
??On the ground floor is the Natural History section with examples of fossils found around the area. The ironstone which Scunthorpe is built on is particularly rich in molluscs. There is also a display case of exotic shells and others with stuffed birds found in the area. There were pencils and paper provided for children to draw and examples of their work pinned up. There is a small book corner with chldren's books.
Behind is a local history section which covers everything from the Haxey hood to World War One. This is a series of display cases exhibiting donated artefacts with basic information. It is a very old fashioned display which hasn’t changed for at least 40 years.
Upstairs is the archaeology section, covering the Stone Age to the Normans. This has had a complete makeover and is an interesting display with plenty of exhibits and a reasonable amount of information attractively displayed. There are large touch pads which give a couple of sentences of basic information about some of the exhibits. These are popular with children who press all of them without listening, but provide little extra information for adults.
It concentrates on local finds making you realise just how rich archaeologically the area is. There is an impressive display of stone axes and bronze age jewellery. Pride of place is given to the Appleby log boat from about 700BC found buried in the mud of the river Ancholme. There is a mosaic floor and section of wall plaster from the Roman villa discovered at Winterington plus other artefacts. There is an Anglo Saxon shield and examples of Anglo-Saxon jewellery. Don’t miss the delightful small chess piece found at Habrough which must rank equal in quality with the Lewis chessmen. There are fragments of stonework from Saxon and Norman churches and the beautifully embossed lead font from Barnetby.
There is also a small section on World War Two with a reconstructed air raid shelter, complete with sound effects, presumably established with local schools and National Curriculum in mind.
Surprising for a steel town, there is very little on the local iron and steel industry, which is the reason Scunthorpe exists today. There is a video and a couple of old trucks. This seems to be a major omission.
When we visited, the temporary exhibition for the year was on the changing face of the High Street. There were reconstructions of shop fronts with well remembered local names with a selection of 1950s artefacts from the museum stores. This was superficial with little detailed information. In a corner a Wendy house had been turned into a Village Shop with scales, cash register and a selection of foodstuffs for the younger children to play in.
There is a basic shop at reception and a cafe with a 1950s theme. (I’m not sure why this was chosen, possibly to make it stand out as different to other cafes around Scunthorpe). There is a certain amount of tourist literature about the area.
There is a small car park at the back of the museum and it is DDA friendly with a lift to the first floor. Entry is free.
Don’t miss the stone sarcophagus complete with skeleton by the entrance.
This is a local museum and unlikely to attract visitors from out of the area to visit. Apart from the (very old fashioned) display on the Haxey Hood, there is nothing you won’t see elsewhere. The local archaeology section is good. The rest can probably best be summed up as ‘dated’ and in need of a make over. The museum won the best Small Museum of the Year award in the 1970s and much of the downstairs displays haven’t changed since. The temporary exhibitions tend to be superficial and we’ve often been disappointed by them. The museum does try and provide a range of activities for all ages and always has a full week of activities for children during half term weeks and others during the summer holidays.