11 February 2020
Gateshead Archive, formerly Gateshead Local Studies Library, has reopened Gateshead Central Library following a major refurbishment to increase access to historic library collections.
Use of local and family history material had been steadily declining at the Library since the collections were moved to staff areas around 15 years ago when public computers were introduced to libraries.
Following a successful application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund the library service have created a new visitor facility restoring the collection to public areas and providing access to thousands of books, records, newspapers and maps.
Exploring 400 years of history
Family history collections are available for users to explore, including voters lists, church records, Durham Wills and ancestry material relating to the First World War. Library users receive free access to Ancestry.com and the British Newspaper Archive and historic maps are available on new touchscreens, allowing people to see where their relatives lived in the past.
The Archive showcases 400 years of local history, including Gateshead’s oldest known book, printed in 1654 on Bottle Bank where the Hilton Hotel stands today. Also on display are rare works by the celebrated woodcut artist Thomas Bewick, who lived in Gateshead. Bewick’s work has even inspired the design of the new archive, with images from his collections reproduced on study desks.
The project will also see some unique and fragile material digitised. This will include the only surviving collection of the Gateshead Post, a local paper which ran from the 1940s until 2003 – a useful ancestry tool containing thousands of birth, death and marriage announcements, ‘bonny baby’ photographs and wedding pictures. .
A new events programme will bring in new audiences and will include a theatre-show based on true local crime from the 1800s discovered in archive records. Gateshead’s first History Festival, in partnership with the University of Northumbria, will see experts in local, UK and World History coming to the archive in May to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day and other conflicts.
The Archive is situated in Gateshead Central Library. It is free for anyone to use with a giftshop and café to enjoy on site. Visit the website.