Beamish Open Air Museum: A Thriving UK Open-Air Museum

Beamish is an open-air museum and enhancing the economy of England's North East region.

Dismantling post-war Airey houses, which will be re-built at Beamish in our 1950s town
Beamish CC BY-NC-ND

Family holiday 1950s style – celebrating the news of our HLF award
Beamish CC BY-NC-ND

Nominate Your House roadshow at Tynemouth market – the Beamish Community Participation Team getting out to raise the profile of our new developments. 
Beamish CC BY-NC-ND

Beamish is an open-air museum that tells the story of everyday life in the North East of England from 1820
to 1940. Visitors can immerse themselves in various time periods, experiencing collections set in an authentic
context and interpreted by costumed staff. It is now the largest visitor attraction in the North East, with over
650,000 visitors in 2014/15. More than half of its visitors come from outside the region, with 56% of those specifically coming to the North East to visit Beamish.

Beamish is also explicitly named in the North East Strategic Economic Plan as a key tourism asset, and is working on a more cohesive and coordinated cultural tourism offer, for example through partnerships with other heritage attractions in the region. The “Remaking” programme is seen as a significant opportunity to boost Beamish and the North East’s profile globally, extending the international reach of the region’s tourism and cultural assets.

In revenue terms, Beamish is self-sustaining, generating income from admissions, catering and retail operations. It was named “Not-for-Profit Organisation of the Year” in 2014 by the North East Business Awards. The museum employs 370 staff and works with 420 volunteers. It is a registered charity, run in partnership with regional local authorities. The museum’s popularity and resilience comes from the way it connects with communities right across the region.

A major programme of capital work, Remaking Beamish, has been developed to transform the site to include recent time periods and innovative ways of experiencing heritage. More than 20 new buildings are proposed
within the £17m scheme. There will be a complete 1950s town and farm; a dedicated activity space in a block of Aged Miners’ Homes for people living with dementia; and a Georgian Coaching Inn. The museum has secured stage 1 support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a £10.75m grant.

Find Beamish and other examples that emphasise the economic value of museums in NEMO's publication "Museums' 4 Values - Values 4 Museums"!