A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A VOLUNTEER AT CAPTAIN COOK’S SCHOOLROOM MUSEUM
Captain Cook’s Schoolroom Museum 101 High Street Great Ayton North Yorkshire TS9 6NB Open*: 27 March 2014 – 31 October 2014
Opening Hours: April, May, June – 1.00pm -4.00pm daily July & August – 11.00am – 4.00pm daily
Admission – FREE
Captain Cook’s Schoolroom Museum promotes knowledge about the social history of Great Ayton, a village in North Yorkshire, and the life and work of Captain James Cook, FRS, RN, British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy.
The museum exhibition takes the visitor through a voyage of James Cook’s life (1728 – 1779) from schoolboy to celebrated explorer.
Containing something for everyone, the walk through Cook’s life can take a few minutes or a few hours.
I arrived at the museum to witness a slight kerfuffle over the ‘float’; entrance to the museum is free but it is entirely self-funded and relies upon fundraising activities, donations and the sale of souvenirs. Plenty of loose change is required at the start of the day.
The museum was officially re-opened on 17 July 2013 after an extensive refurbishment, made possible by lottery funding. The museum is based on two floors. A lift has been installed to ensure access for all. The entrance, enquiries and shop are on the ground floor. The shop is stocked with a vast array of fun and educational toys for the children, at ‘pocket money’ prices, with books about Captain James Cook and other ephemera for adults.
Letting the day unfold, I was able to assist visitors but as always, learned far more from talking and listening to the visitors themselves. A local couple described their delight at being allowed to board a replica of Captain Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, before it had been opened to the public when it was docked at Lyttleton Harbour, New Zealand, a few years ago. They were allowed a private viewing on the grounds that they were from Great Ayton, visiting New Zealand. Another visitor, hot on the heels of a visit to the Captain Cook Birth Place Museum, was happy to share her experiences, stating that she had ‘learned more in the last four days’ than she did at school. She recounted her visit to James Cook senior’s grave at Saint Germain’s Church, Markse. All that remains of the Church is the tower preserved, it is rumoured, on the plea of sailors who claimed it could be seen from the sea and thus provided a good landmark.
This discussion was followed by a request for directions to Cook’s Monument in the Cleveland Hills. The monument is visible from the High Street in Great Ayton. A local map of the walk can be purchased from the Tourist Information Centre.
A discussion about the Royal Research Ship James Cook followed. This is a modern day oceanographic research vessel named in Cook’s honour, carrying on the tradition of scientific discovery. It is one of the most advanced research vessels in service.
A Gentleman hailing from Gisborne, New Zealand, was next in through the Museum entrance. He stated that he was from ‘approximately 2,000 yards from Captain Cook’s first landing point in New Zealand’. He was amazed by the relatively ‘low key’ approach to Captain Cook. He commented that in Gisborne, organisations from motor companies to restaurants all rejoice in the Cook name and celebrate the Captain Cook connection.
One couple undertook the audio trail. For a £10 refundable deposit visitors are provided with an audio headset and a map of the village. The trail leads the visitor around the village explaining the Cook connection and setting it within its historical context. Taking approximately 60 – 90 minutes, the trail is a walk from Captain Cook’s Schoolroom Museum taking in 14 points of interest around the village. It examines the village’s Quaker roots, highlights Cook’s monument, statue, the 12th Century Church containing the grave of Cook’s mother and siblings and takes the visitor to the original site of Cook’s parents’ cottage. In 1933 the cottage was sold, dismantled, shipped and rebuilt in Australia where it now stands in Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne.
So there you have it! One day in the life of a volunteeer at the refurbished Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum. Whether you are an historian interested in the life and times of Captain James Cook, simply following the Captain Cook Trail, interested in local history, a local wishing to re-acquaint yourself with the village, a parent looking to occupy a child or, simply a passerby … Captain James Cook Schoolroom Museum has something for everyone! On behalf of all the volunteers working at the museum, we look forward to seeing you…
*The 2014 season begins with an organised school trip and opens to the public on Saturday 28th March from 1pm – 4pm
For more on the museum see http://www.captaincookschoolroommuseum.co.uk