Your collections


There has been a museum in Barrow since 1907 when an alligator, presumably stuffed, was presented to the museum.  Over the years a great collection has built up of wonderfully diverse objects.

We showcase parts of the collection in our galleries and temporary exhibitions.  We do try to shine a spotlight on all parts of the collection in this way. 

We tweet and post Facebook comments and pictures frequently about the collection and history of Barrow.

Follow us (@DockMuseum on Twitter) or like us on Facebook to find out more about Barrow's fascinating history.  


Our archaeology collection was known for the Langdale axes, polished, roughouts and flakes and chips. The axes were hewn from rock from the Langdales in the Lake District and then finished off in "factories" on Walney. Langdale axes were made in the Neolithic period (3500 BC to 2000 BC) and were exchanged or traded round England and Wales.  

However, we also have exciting cave collections from Heaning Wood and Kents Bank.  Some of the bones from these caves have been researched and radiocarbon dated - in fact we have the "oldest Northerner" in our collection.  Read more about this in  /Oldest-Northerner

Finds from local metal detectorists have kept the museum busy these last few years.  We have one of the largest collections of Chinese coins found in the country.  They were buried in Dalton-in-Furness, probably in the nineteenth century.  It is a mystery as to why they were buried and by whom. The interesting thing about this collection of 107 Chinese coins is that the majority of them were counterfeits (this was as a consequence of the turbulence in China in the mid nineteenth century).

But the most exciting find uncovered by a metal detectorist has been the Furness Hoard.  This mix of Viking and Anglo-Saxon coins, ingots and silver fragments was found in a field in 2011.  Nothing like this had been found before and in an age with very few written records hoards provide crucial clues on the trading economy and politics.  Read more about this in /Vikings

You can find out more about our archaeology collection in our archaeology gallery and you can see examples of Langdale axes, the "oldest Northerner", Chinese coins and the Furness Hoard on display.

If you want to conduct research on part of our archaeology collection please contact the Collections and Exhibitions Manager. 


The museum has about 1500 objects in this collection: minerals,igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock and fossils.

The museum’s walls (sedimentary rock) are a great example of sandstone. It was formed about 200 million years ago. England was near the Equator at this point and had a desert-like climate. Constant erosion of land produced particles or sediments which over time hardened to form what are called sedimentary rocks. Look closely at the dock’s red walls and you will see an obvious layered structure.

Sandstone has been quarried for many years. One of the oldest sandstone buildings is Furness Abbey and also many of Barrow’s earliest buildings such as Roose Cottages and the Town Hall. Look round Barrow and you will find many examples of it.

Natural History

The mounted birds, mammals and invertebrates in this collection allow you to get up close to a wild animal. You can see how big (or small) a bird is, marvel at its beautiful plumage and examine it in detail. 

The museum’s moose head is one of the early donations to the museum. Many of our older visitors remember it fondly from when it was on display in the library (before the museum moved to the dry dock). But most of our "stuffed” animals are British birds including a pair of golden eagles and birds commonly found on the seashore like eider ducks.

Social history

This is a great umbrella term to cover just about anything related to people. It encompasses games, toys, photos, furniture, clothing and even musical instruments.

We were fortunate to receive a bequest from Maud Tranter. She was a ballet teacher in Barrow and when she died we received a wide collection relating to her and her family. Her uncleMatthew Armer was a musician in Barrow and had served during the First World War. We have a wonderful collection of his musical instruments (including home-made double bass) and objects relating to his war service including a programme for a First World War performance of "Cinderella de la Guerre" on Wed Dec 26th 1917. The performance was put on by No 7 Convalescent Depot and Private Armer performed in the orchestra.

Maud also donated objects from her life including ballet shoes, a dresser that is on display in the gallery and a diary from the Second World War. 

Vickers Photographic Archive

The Vickers Photographic Archive is a nationally important archive of approximately 10,000 negatives relating to the engineering, manufacture of armaments and the building of submarines and vessels at the Barrow shipyard. A collection of cine film and ship plans have also been donated to the museum by the shipyard.

This archive had been on display for many years and we hope to make it fully accessible to the public in the near future.

Industrial History

Saving the best for last...we have superb ship models in our collection as well as a variety of objects relating to Barrow's industrial past (including the iron and steel works, iron mining, Furness Railway and of course Barrow's shipyard).

The shipyard’s Model Shop joiners built several types of models. Full-hull models showed whole vessels and had cases made elsewhere in the Joiners Shop. Half-block models showed only one side of a ship and sometimes had cases backed with a mirror to give the illusion of being complete. Plating models were used to plan layouts of steel plates on real vessels. Other models demonstrated machinery and equipment.

You can some of our ship models in our Shipbuilders to the World Gallery and our staff are happy to explain them in more detail too.

To find out about our collecting policy please download this document


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