The museum was established in 1846, in the Athenaeum Building on Fawcett Street, the first municipally funded museum in the country outside London. The first recorded fine art acquisition was commissioned by the Sunderland Corporation, a painting of the opening of the new South Dock in 1850. It is possibly the first time that an artwork was commissioned by a town council (Sunderland, the city of firsts). In 1879, the Museum moved to a new larger building next to Mowbray Park including a library and winter garden based on the model of the Crystal Palace. U.S. President Ulysses Grant was in attendance at the laying of the foundation stone by Alderman Samuel Storey in 1877. The building opened in 1879. During World War II, Winter Garden was damaged by a parachute mine in 1941 and was later demolished with a 1960s extension taking its place, but in 2001 a lottery funded refurbishment of the Museum created a new Winter Garden extension and improved facilities. The Winter Gardens contain over 2,000 flowers and plants. In 2003, the Museum was recognised as the most attended outside London. The Museum contains a large collection of the locally made Sunderland Lustreware pottery. Other highlights of the Museum are a stuffed Lion which was acquired in 1879, the remains of a Walrus brought back from Siberia in the 1880s and the first Nissan car to be made in Sunderland. Also featured are the skeletal remains of a male human being.
The Winter Gardens is, as it's name implies, a wonderful place to visit in the midst of a bleak winter. The museum contains the only known British example of a gliding reptile, the oldest known vertebrate capable of gliding flight. The exhibit was discovered in Eppleton quarry. The museum features art, textiles, pottery, glass, coal mining, local history, social history, natural history, industry, geology; as well as interactive displays and video presentations. All Areas Accessible to Disabled Visitors. Facilities for Hearing Impaired Visitors. Facilities for Visually Impaired Visitors. Guide Dogs Permitted. Ramp / Level Access. Toilets for Disabled Visitors. Printed Material in Foreign Languages - On request in advance. Behind the museum is Mowbray Park, a very pleasant place to relax in.
Location : Burdon Road, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear SR1 1PP
Transport: Sunderland (Grand Central from Kings Cross and Northern Rail) 5 minutes. Bus routes 2, 2A, 5A, 10, 11, 19, 39 and 700 stop outside and 20, 20A, 35, 35A, 36, 136, X20 and X36 stop nearby.
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 10:00 to 17:00. Sunday 14:00 to 17:00.
Tel: 0191 561 2323