Discover the story of Sunderland, its people, its industries, acclaimed art exhibitions and tropical Winter Gardens– all under one roof. With a collection dating back to 1846, Sunderland’s fascinating history is explored across four floors, with spaces dedicated to shipbuilding, coal mining, glass making and pottery, as well as many other aspects of the city’s past.
Perhaps the most famous object of all is Wallace the Lion. Wallace was part of a touring wild animal show which visited Sunderland during 1868 with the then famous African tamer Martini Maccomo. When he died, some years later, Wallace the lion was stuffed and came into the Museum’s collection. Over 135 years later, he’s still here and remains one of the most popular exhibits…now posing for selfies!
These day’s Wallace is also in the company of the first Nissan car to roll off the production line at their Sunderland factory in 1986. The car plant replaced shipbuilding as one of the major industries in Sunderland.
Sunderland has a rich history of industries, all of which are explored throughout the museums four floors. Exhibition spaces are dedicated to shipbuilding, coal mining, glass making and pottery as well many other aspects of the city’s past. Our ‘Secrets of the Past’ gallery, for example, delves into the lives of the Anglo-Saxon monks who resided at St Peter’s Monastery in Monkwearmouth.
The Museums Art Gallery shows a significant collection of the works of LS Lowry, an artist who spent lots of time in Sunderland. Our temporary exhibitions include high profile visiting exhibitions including works by Leonardo Da Vinci and Canaletto.
The Museum has recently been awarded a grant as part of The Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme. The programme will see exhibitions that showcase and are inspired by work from the Arts Council Collection, which includes work by incredible global artists Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, Paula Rego, and Gillian Wearing. This means that over the next three years the museum will have access to an amazing collection of British art from 1948 to date.
The Winter Gardens, a 21st Century addition to the museum is a tropical paradise and home to our resident Koi Carp. 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.
2019 has seen a facelift for the Museum’s main entrance and shop which now has a fantastic range of Sunderland themed gifts alongside locally made craft items.
Alongside our permanent and temporary exhibitions, our ever-changing events programme means that there is always something new and exciting to see and do for all the family.
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.