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Whitby Museum Library & Archive

Whitby Museum Library & Archive founded 1823

Background

The Museum, our library and archives are run by our parent organisation, the Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society, founded in 1823 by a group of leading Whitby citizens led by the Rev. George Young, the author of the classic nineteenth century History of Whitby (1819) and minister at the Presbyterian Church. The chief object of the Society was to set up and maintain a museum, specialising in fossils, since "Whitby is a chief town of a district abounding with petrifications and containing not a few Antiquities". Ever since, Whitby Museum has been run for the people of Whitby by the people of Whitby.

Collection

Local History - collections of books, pamphlets, journals, maps, prints and manuscripts for Whitby and the surrounding area (approx 15 miles radius)
Maritime History - collections of books, Lloyds registers, and records including muster rolls, and ships' account and log books
Geology - extensive collection of books and journals relating to the history of geology and the internationally important discoveries of Jurassic fossils made in the 19th Century in the Whitby area
Industrial heritage - sources for the development of the alum, jet, ironstone, and potash industries and the railways in the area
Family History - many sources including printed parish registers, lists of monumental inscriptions for many local churches, wills, and indexes to wills in the York Registry
Literature and language - a small literature collection focussing on novels, poetry and plays that are either by Whitby writers or are about Whitby, and a small collection on Yorkshire dialect

Building

The Museum opened in 2 rooms over a shop in Baxtergate, moving within four years to the top floor of the waterfront building now known as Fusco's Quayside Fish Restaurant. On the ground floor were the public baths with a subscription library on the first floor.
By the end of the 19th century the main anxiety of the Society was how to provide more space for the ever-growing collections. Various proposals for achieving this were considered over the next 25 years and the final decision was to build a completely new Museum building in Pannett Park adjoining the municipal Art Gallery.
The Museum building was built at the Society's cost and was subsequently given to Whitby Town Council who are responsible for the upkeep of the fabric. It was opened in 1931 and forms the central hall of the present Museum.
As exhibits have continued to come in, there have been several major additions to exhibition and storage space over the last 60 years. The Chapman wing and Kendall Library were added later. In 2005, thanks to local fundraising and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a new wing has increased our capacity to meet what is required of a Museum today, without spoiling the valued 'Edwardian' character of the main Museum. The new wing contains a modern lecture theatre, galleries for Clothes and Exhibitions, a range of modern workrooms and a tearoom.

Status