About us

Discover Sunderland’s fascinating history in one place. With a collection dating back to 1846 there are plenty of surprises at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens. Perhaps the most famous object of all is Wallace the Lion.

Wallace was part of a touring wild animal show which visited Sunderland during the 1800s with the then famous African tamer Martini Maccomo. When he died, some years later Wallace the lion, came into the Museum’s collection and remains one of our most popular exhibits. Over 135 years later, he’s still here…posing for selfies! – Please note Wallace in currently on holiday and will be back with us in mid-2019.

You’ll also find hundreds of other amazing objects like the first Nissan car to roll off the production line at their Sunderland factory in 1986. Galleries cover the shipbuilding, glass and pottery making industries the Anglo-Saxon period and many other aspects of the city’s past.

The Art Gallery shows a significant collection of the works of LS Lowry an artist who spent lots of time in Sunderland and our temporary exhibition and events programme mean that there is always something new and exciting to see and do for all the family.

The Winter Gardens, a 21st Century addition to the museum, is a tropical paradise. Over 2,000 plants thrive in the glass rotunda and from the tree top walkway visitors have a bird’s eye view of beautiful Mowbray Park.

Please note that the Pottery Gallery is occasionally closed to the general public due to special events taking place. Please contact us before your visit to check opening information.

Entry to the museum is free but donations are welcome.

  • The History behind Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

    The first museum in Sunderland opened in 1810. It was a small, private museum housed in one room, the collection was mainly natural history specimens ; 72 birds, 12 fish, and 427 minerals and fossils.  Other items listed include Colonel Lilburne’s boots (which are still on display today in the Time machine gallery).

    Following the Museums Act of 1845, Sunderland Corporation arranged to take over the running of the museum from the Sunderland Natural History and Antiquarian Society and Sunderland then had the first publicly funded museum outside London.

    A number of years later a competition was held to design a building to house the ever growing collections. Local architects J & T Tilman won the contract and the purpose built museum, art gallery, library and Winter Gardens opened in 1879. The foundation stone was laid by the Mayor on 24 September 1877 in the presence of ex- president of the USA General Grant.

    The museum was redeveloped with money from the Heritage Lottery fund and reopened with a new Winter Gardens in 2001.

  • Meet Our Team


    Jo Cunningham – Collections, Exhibitions and Archives Manager
    Shauna Gregg – Collections, Exhibitions and Archives Officer

    Contact us: museums@sunderland.gov.uk

    Learning & Engagement

    Jennie Lambert – Public Learning & Engagement Manager
    Marie Harrison – Public Learning & Engagement Officer

    Contact us: museumlearning@sunderland.gov.uk


    Carolyn Bowes – Operations Lead
    James Large – Business Developer Officer
    Graeme Easton – Visitor Services Manager
    Karen Lillistone – Assistant Visitor Services Manager
    Tonia Dagg – Visitor Services Assistant
    Bill Walker – Visitor Services Assistant
    Kim Franchino – Visitor Services Assistant
    Sean Dykes – Visitor Services Assistant
    Tony Drake – Visitor Services Assistant
    Dave Mulligan – Visitor Services Assistant
    Chris Beeton – Visitor Services Assistant
    Christine McKenna – Visitor Services Assistant

    Contact us: museums@sunderland.gov.uk