SUNDERLAND MUSEUM & WINTER GARDENS has been bestowed with a radiant review by the nation’s official tourism authority, VisitEngland.

The much-loved visitor attraction is praised for ‘consistently high standards of customer service’ as well as its ‘diverse and comprehensive collection’ and ‘superb gift shop’ in its latest VisitEngland report.

It also received an overall quality score of 92 per cent – up three per cent on it score from last year’s assessment visit. This, the assessor noted, ‘demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to continually enhancing the overall visitor experience.’

Welcoming the report, Cllr John Price, Cabinet Member for Vibrant City at Sunderland City Council, said: “Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens holds a very special place in the hearts of people across our city and beyond.

“Many of us have fond memories of visiting it as a child or of taking our own children and grandchildren there more recently. So it’s thrilling to see Visit England recognising its special qualities and scoring it so highly.

“It’s also wonderful to see VisitEngland praising the museum’s commitment to continually enhancing the overall visitor experience, at a time when we have exciting plans in the pipeline to transform the museum in line with what our residents and visitors have already told us they want to see. We are very much looking forward to working closely with the community to develop these and take them forward.

“A major part of this will involve updating the story of Sunderland – our stories – to make sure that they better reflect our communities, who we are, and where we come from.”

Ambitious plans for the transformation of the Museum & Winter Gardens took a significant step forward earlier this year after the City Council was awarded £299,425 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NHLF) to progress its plans and apply for a full NHLF grant in 2024.

Sunderland City Council’s proposals, which have been shaped by the views of residents and museum visitors, will see major improvements to the popular visitor attraction, making much more of the museum and the visitor, exhibition and collection spaces.

Plans include moving the main entrance to the terrace adjacent to Mowbray Park, better connecting the museum to the park. The ground floor will be completely transformed with a new central atrium space, new galleries and more family friendly activities and exhibitions. Ongoing engagement with residents will very much be part of shaping the improvements to the Museum and ensuring it continues to play a key role in the life of the city and its communities.

Welcoming the report, Rebecca Ball, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture, said: “It is wonderful to see Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens receive such a glowing report from VisitEngland.

“The museum is the city’s most visited cultural venue, welcoming 270,000 visitors last year and offering a rich and varied programme of exhibitions, events and activities for people of all ages.

“The feedback from VisitEngland is testament to the brilliant team, who work so hard every day to ensure an inspiring and enjoyable experience for all visitors.”

The high scores achieved in the VisitEngland assessment report mean that the Museum & Winter Gardens will be automatically nominated for two prestigious VisitEngland Accolades – the ‘Welcome’ accolade for excellent customer service and the ‘Gold’ accolade in recognition of the high scores achieved in all sections. Winners of the accolades will be announced later this year.

The VisitEngland assessment took place in July.

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