Decolonising the Museum


The Great North Museum: Hancock was founded during the height of the British Empire. This means we have lots of objects that came from former British colonies around the world. But we don’t always know how they ended up here or what they really meant to the people that made them. We are now trying to research these items so we can tell their stories more fully.

The World Cultures gallery at the Great North Museum: Hancock
A carved wooden mask from the Nuu-Chah-Nuulth people of North West Canada. This late 19th Century object is an example of an item in the Museum’s collection from a former British colony. NEWHM : G053
Many objects in the Museum were collected by individuals who were closely involved in British colonialism. This Hawaiian wickerwork head was brought to Britain sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century when British exploration of the world often paved the way for the creation of colonies. NEWHM : C584
A Roman tombstone from Housesteads fort on Hadrian’s Wall representing a Syrian archer. The Roman Empire relied on military manpower from different provinces. This diversity in the Roman army is not really emphasised in our Hadrian’s Wall Gallery, but could become part of a decolonised approach to understanding race in Antiquity. NEWMA : 1822.6

Further reading

Our changing relationship with Irtyru



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Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Major regional museum, art gallery and archives service. We manage a collection of nine venues across Tyneside and the Archives for Tyne and Wear.