Beamish – The Living History Museum of the North, Regional Resource Centre, Beamish, DH9 0RG – Visit Now
When visiting the North-East of England, a trip to Beamish is a must. Beamish is the Living History Museum of the North, where a huge collection of artefacts has been gathered together to allow you to discover life as it used to be. The world-famous museum was started by Dr Frank Atkinson – who was the director of the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle – and wished for the history of the North East of England to be preserved during a time where he witnessed a great deal was being demolished or removed.
Much of the modernisation occurred during the fifties, sixties and seventies and saw the destruction of entire industries and the communities that worked in them. Gathering twenty-two army camp huts, Frank filled them with what was described as a policy of ‘unselective collecting’ and had Beamish not succeeded, he would have been regarded a hoarder by modern audiences. This policy meant that even the most banal or common of everyday items would be preserved to tell the story of the region’s history.
In 1970 Beamish started with Frank as its director and over the next few years started to grow with the addition of exhibitions. Old Trams were saved and installed, with their own stations, providing transport for the museum between periods, something that has been added to with buses and a train. Whole streets were taken from parts of the North-East and were re-assembled at Beamish to preserve the history and heritage of the region. By 1978 Beamish had its millionth visitor, showing the success of the concept and how much people had adopted the museum as a part of the North-East culture.
The museum today takes you from the Georgian’s through to the 1950’s, with the aim to try to have the ‘modern’ exhibitions around seventy years from the modern day – enabling for grandparents to share their youth with their grandchildren and explore the more distant past at the same time. As a result of this you can walk from a Georgian house and farmers cottage, which dates from the 1440’s, through to a welfare hall and cinema that is not a part of the distant past but instead well within living memory. Beamish is well worth a trip for anyone who would like to experience the day-to-day life of normal people throughout recent history, a real gem for a family day out.