10 Days in Newcastle: Goodbye for Now! (Ivan Radman-Livaja, ITP 2018, Croatia)

Written by Ivan Radman-Livaja (ITP 2018), Deputy Director & Senior Curator, Archaeological Museum, Zagreb, Croatia
Written 31 July 2018

My dear colleague Mao Lei (ITP 2018, China) reflected on our first days here in Newcastle and it is now my turn to close the chapter. Sadly, our stay in Newcastle will end tomorrow. While Lei, Ali Al Kathiri (ITP 2018, Oman) and I are certainly looking forward to returning to the British Museum, we can hardly describe how much we have enjoyed our placement at Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM).

Besides long but enjoyable and interesting discussions on various subjects with colleagues from TWAM – from a general overview of this complex administrative entity encompassing nine different museums and galleries, to specific topics such as regional and national partnerships, archaeological collections management, research, marketing, outreach programmes, income generation, learning programmes and volunteers management – we had the opportunity to visit most of the venues run by TWAM, as well as other cultural heritage sites in the area.

All three of us being archaeologists, you may imagine how thrilled we were to visit sites on Hadrian’s Wall such as Segedunum/Wallsend (TWAM), Cilurnum/Chesters (English Heritage), Vindolanda/Bardon Mill (private trust) and Arbeia/South Shields (TWAM). All of these sites have museums in situ and we spent hours visiting the rich collections in the permanent exhibitions. We also had the chance to see a temporary exhibition in Segedunum about Roman helmets’ cheek-pieces.


‘Rocket’ at the Discovery Museum

However, TWAM and Newcastle offer far more than just Roman archaeological heritage. We enjoyed exploring the Discovery Museum, where we could see, among other things from the Tyne area’s rich past, Robert Stephenson’s famous steam locomotive ‘Rocket’, on loan to TWAM as part of the Great Exhibition of the North. This is currently the largest cultural event in England, telling the story of the north of England, more particularly its contribution to art, culture, design and innovation. The exhibitions is spread over
Newcastle and Gateshead but centred around three major venues – the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle (TWAM) and, across the river in Gateshead, in the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art as well as Sage Gateshead, the international home for music and musical discovery.


Beyond archaeology: Mao Lei at Hatton Gallery

Obviously, we spent a lot of time in the Great North Museum: Hancock, visiting the permanent archaeological, ethnographic and natural history displays as well as the Great Exhibition of the North. Being in Newcastle and not visiting the Laing Art Gallery and Hatton Gallery would have been a major mistake. There, we could appreciate several charming exhibitions such as The Enchanted Garden, Glenn Brown, Machines & Myths: by Michael Lyons and The Making of an Englishman: Fred Ulhman.


Vibrant Newcastle

And to tell the truth, our stay in Newcastle was not exclusively devoted to cultural enrichment. It is a vibrant and lively city whose pubs and restaurants were ideal places to recover forces after a long day visiting museums and cultural venues. Several pounds heavier, it is time now to pack our suitcases and say goodbye to Newcastle and our wonderful hosts, Jackie Bland and Bill Griffiths, who were simply marvelous.


My ITP colleagues Mao and Ali with ITP UK Partner Representative Jackie Bland