What do Charles Darwin's specimen collection, a Shakespearean fencing manual and Neville Chamberlain's notes of his 1938 meeting with Hitler have in common? They are just some of the unique artefacts waiting to be discovered as part of The Independent's new Hidden Treasures campaign.
In partnership with the museum charity the Collections Trust, Hidden Treasures offers Independent readers exclusive, free, behind-the-scenes tours of 50 leading heritage attractions across the UK between the 4 and 11 June.
Whether it is exploring the secret passages under Temple Newsam House near Leeds, discovering the Asian and ceramics collections of the V&A, or uncovering the secrets of the National Archives, Hidden Treasures is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the collections that are not usually on public display, and to find out how our nation's heritage is cared for.
Hidden Treasures tours are guided by the leading experts in their field, who will be happy to answer your questions and share their knowledge of these tremendously diverse collections. Whether you are interested in natural history or fighter planes, the story of the post box or the gruesome early days of medicine, Hidden Treasures is your chance to discover their hidden stories.
How to book
Hidden Treasures tours are provided exclusively, free-of-charge for Independent readers. To reserve your place on one of these tours, please call freephone number 0800 8815408. Places on Hidden Treasures tours are strictly limited, and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note that your booking is not confirmed until you have received a confirmation email from us.
Terms & Conditions
Some tours are taking places in venues for which an admission charge is normally applicable. The tour is free, but you may be asked to pay for admission if you subsequently decide to visit another part of the attraction not included in the tour. Bookings are being coordinated by the Collections Trust. To reserve your place, call 0800 8815408. This is a freephone number and calls will be answered from 8.30am-7pm. Please note that specific access conditions may apply. Please refer to the access conditions on the participating museum's website before booking.
Visit Jersey Heritage's purpose-built store and discover its eclectic collections including a mammoth skull found at La Cotte de St Brelade and the contents of 19th-century chemists shops. Tours will be guided by knowledgeable staff.
Meet at Rear of the Sir Francis Cook Gallery, Trinity, Jersey
Friday 8 June, 10-11.30am, 12noon-1.30pm, 2.30-4pm (jerseyheritage.org)
Snibston Discovery Museum
Discover highlights from Snibston's collections and talk to staff . Highlights of the tour include the Beaumanor coach and fascinating objects from the Tudor coal mines of northwest Leicestershire.
Meet at Admissions desk, main museum building
Wednesday 6 June, 2-4pm
(leics.gov.uk/index/ leisure_tourism/museums/ museumcollections)
Leicestershire County Council Collections Centre
One million objects illustrating the changing natural history of Leicestershire and its residents include the "cursed" Papillon shoes, coins from the Hallaton Treasure and a Queen of Spain fritillary butterfly collected from the Battle of the Somme.
Meet at Directions will be emailed to you on booking
Thursday 7 June, 2-4pm (leics. gov.uk/index/leisure_tourism/museums/museumcollections)
The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire
A rare chance to see behind the scenes at the museum and Usher gallery, looking at objects in the archaeology, geology, world cultures and militaria collections (morning tour) and the art collections (afternoon tour) that are not normally on display.
Meet at The reception of Lincolnshire Archives, St Rumbold Street, Lincoln
Friday 7 June, 10-11.30am, 2-3pm (thecollectionmuseum.com)
EAST OF ENGLAND
Find out how the 227,000 items in our collections are cared for, and get the chance to see some hidden gems not on display.
Meet at Museum reception
Saturday 9 June, 11-11.45am; Sunday 10 June, 2-2.45pm
Discover the story of north Hertfordshire and the people who have lived here from pre-history right up to the turn of the 21st century. Our tours offer visitors a unique opportunity to see behind-the-scenes work on the collections.
Meet at Front door of museum
Wednesday 6 June, 11-11.45am, 2.15-3pm (north-herts.gov.uk/ letchworth_museum_and_art_gallery.html)
Museum Resource Centre, Hitchin
The North Hertfordshire Museum Service's collections covering social history (things we use in everyday life and work), archaeology, art, costumes and natural history.
Meet at Museum resource centre, Bury Mead Road, Hitchin
Friday 8 June, 2.15-2.55pm; Saturday 9 June 11-11.40am; Monday 11 June 11-11.40am
Bishop's Stortford Museum
Revisit the successful 2011 exhibition "Beautiful, vulnerable and inaccessible", offering an unusual look at some of the fragile objects held in the museum's store. The museum is providing two workshop sessions to learn about how the exhibition was photographed.
Meet at The Rhodes exhibition gallery
Saturday 9 June, 10-11am, 11.30am-12.30pm (rhodesbishopsstortford.org.uk)
Mill Green Mill & Museum, Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service
Step behind the scenes and see how the collections of this unique local museum are used, stored and cared for. Store tours with a Jubilee theme.
Meet at Museum reception
Friday 8 June, 10.30-11.30am, 2-3pm (welhat.gov.uk/museum)
Horniman Museum and Gardens
A chance to visit the Horniman Museum's Study Collections Centre (SCC), the museum's major off-site storage facility. The tour will highlight how the museum has improved the care, storage and documentation of the collections over the years, and offer a glimpse of our hidden treasures.
Special conditions: visitors will be driven to the Study Collections Centre in a minibus provided by the museum. Wheelchair users should contact the museum in advance to discuss alternative arrangements for getting to the store. Finishing times reflect what time visitors will be back at the main museum site in Forest Hill. The Museum is open from 10.30am-5.30pm, and the Gardens from 7.30am until sunset, so we encourage people to visit them after the morning tour or before the afternoon tour for a full experience.
Meet at Totem pole in the museum gardens(10am or 2pm promptly)
Saturday 9 June, 10am-2pm, 2-4pm (horniman.ace.uk/visit/ getting-here)
Victoria and Albert Museum
Tours include an opportunity to learn about conservation at the V&A as well as a rare glimpse of the asian, ceramics and metalwork departments' collections. Attendees on the Edmund de Waal Signs and Wonders tour will need to have good head for heights, and to be physically fit for a climb of 68 narrow steps.
Meet at Secretariat Gate, V&A, Cromwell Road Thursday 7 June, conservation tour, 9.15-11am
Meet at Meeting point, Grand Entrance:
Friday 8 June, French porcelain tour, 11am-12noon; Asian and Middle Eastern shoes tour, 1-2pm; Metalwork 1600-1800 tour, 2.30-3.30pm
Monday 11 June, Edmund de Waal tour, 11-11.45am; ceramics tour, 2-3pm (vam.ac.uk)
Jewish Museum London
Experience objects from the museum stores under the supervision of the curators of Judaica and social history. Hear about the collections, how they were acquired, how they are managed and put your questions to the museum curators.
Meet at Hidden Treasures desk outside the auditorium
Sunday 10 June, 11am-12.30pm, 2-3.30pm (jewishmuseum. org.uk)
Hall Place and Gardens
Be transported to the pioneering days of early photography. Be among the first to see our collection of glass lantern slides that capture images of cities and people from around the world. Meet our collections manager to discover how we are documenting and preserving for future generations.
Meet at Reception (entry to the tour is free, but there is a charge if you would like to visit the rest of the house)
Wednesday 6 June, 11am-12noon; Thursday 7 June, 11am-12noon, 2-3pm; Friday 8 June, 11am-12noon, 2-3pm (hallplace.org.uk)
Bromley Museum in Orpington Priory is one of the most significant buildings in the local area. Find out about the history of the Priory – a Grade II* listed medieval rectory and one of the borough's oldest buildings. We will be offering a talk and tour of the building and a rare opportunity to sneak behind the scenes and see the fine art store.
Meet at The Great Hall
Wednesday 6 June, 2-4pm; Thursday 7 June, 2-4pm; Friday 8 June, 2-4pm (bromley.gov.uk/ bromleymuseum)
Imperial War Museum
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the Imperial War Museum's new state-of-the-art store, housing its collection of 20th century works of art. As well as more than 3,500 works of art, find out how this facility is leading the way in environmental sustainability.
Meet at Museum reception
Friday 8 June, 10.30-11.30am, 12noon-1pm, 1.30-2.30pm, 3-4pm (iwm.org.uk)
The Wiener Library
Explore the hidden treasures held in Britain's largest and the world's oldest archives on the Holocaust and the Nazi era. The Wiener library invites you on a behind-the-scenes tour of our new, state-of-the-art archives which hold 65,000 books, 17,000 photographs and 1,500 documents.
Meet at Main reception, 29 Russell Square, London, WC1
Thursday 7 June, 11am-12noon; Friday 8 June, 11am-12noon; Monday 11 June 11am-12noon
The British Postal Museum & Archive
Discover fascinating collections from small objects to the national collection of 200 letter boxes, as well as telephone kiosks and the BPMA's collection of motorised vehicles. A rare opportunity to experience parts of the collection not usually available.
Meet at The British Postal Museum Store Unit 7, Debden Industrial Estate, Lenthall Road, Loughton
Wednesday 6 June, 10am-12noon (postalheritage.org.uk/page/ museum-gettingto)
The National Archives
A rare glimpse behind the scenes at the National Archives, the UK government's official archive with one of the largest collections in the world. Our role is to collect and secure the future of the government record, both digital and physical, to preserve it for generations to come, and to make it as accessible and available as possible. The tour will show visitors how we do this.
Meet at Reception desk, National Archives, Richmond
Wednesday 6 June, 10-11.45am, 12noon-1.45pm, 2.30-3.45pm; Thursday 7 June, 10-11.45am, 12noon-1.45pm, 2.30-3.45pm; Friday 8 June, 10-11.45am, 12noon-1.45pm, 2.30-3.45pm,
National Army Museum
A rare opportunity to experience the unseen collections of this unique institution. The tour will include silhouette portraits of First World War prisoners-of-war and an extremely rare copy of The Art of War, a treatise by Nicholaus Marschalk, 1515.
Meet at Museum welcome desk
Thursday 7 June, 2-3pm; Saturday 9 June, 10.30am-12noon, 2-3pm (nam.ace.uk)
Museum of Richmond
A tour of the eclectic but petite collection store of the Museum of Richmond, an independent, local-history museum of artefacts from Richmond, Ham, Petersham and Kew. The collection ranges from prehistoric times to present day.
Meet at Museum reception
Friday 8 June, 2-2.30pm, 2.30-3pm, 3-3.30pm, 3.30-4pm
Museum of London
Experience a rare glimpse behind the scenes of the Museum of London, including some of the "hidden treasures" of its collections as well as working areas, laboratories and offices. Gain an overview of how a museum works.
Meet at Museum foyer, by the front desk.
Tuesday 5 June, 2-3pm; Thursday 7 June, 2-3pm;Friday 8 June, 2-3pm
Natural History Museum
A fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the 27 kilometres of shelves, 22 million specimens and cutting-edge scientific research in the Darwin Centre's Zoology spirit building. See hidden treasures such as the giant squid or specimens collected by Charles Darwin.
Special conditions: children must be accompanied by an adult, and tours are not suitable for children under eight.
Meet at Visitor reception desk in the main hall
Thursday 7 June, 11.45am-12.15pm; Monday 11 June, 11.45am-12.15pm (nhm.ace.uK)
The Manchester Museum
Fantastic collections housed in an amazing gothic revival building. The collection is enormous at around four million objects. We are offering tours to see behind the scenes for visitors to discover how we organise and preserve the collection, how we use it for inspiration and enjoyment and about some recent and forthcoming exhibition developments.
Meet at Reception
Wednesday 6 June, 2-3pm, Thursday 7 June, 2-3pm, Friday 8 June, 2-3pm
Liverpool Medical Institution
Come and see what is behind the six sandstone pillars and impressive frontage of one of Liverpool's little-known buildings. The Liverpool Medical Institution is a members-only organisation and the building and its collections of rare books, medical objects, clocks and portraits is not often open to the public. With a history going back to 1779, the Liverpool Medical Institution is a unique library and organisation and the home of many medical "firsts".
Meet at Main entrance, 114 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool
Sunday 10 June, 10-11am, 12noon-1pm, 2-3pm (lmi.org.uk)
World Museum, Liverpool
Exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of the natural history collections. The museum boasts extensive collections from the Amazonian rain forest to outer space. Two tours will uncover the secrets of the vertebrate zoology collections store and botany herbarium.
Meet at Reception desk
Wednesday 6 June, Vertebrate Zoology Tour 10-10.40am, 2-2.40pm; Thursday 7 June, Botany Herbarium Tour 10-10.40am, 2-2.40pm
Museum of Science and Industry (Manchester)
Explore behind the scenes with a self-guided trail in the MOSI store. Discover fascinating and surprising science and industry objects, from machine tools to washing machines, from jam-jar filling machines to butter churns. See if you can correctly guess the ages of objects.
Meet at An open drop-in session; enquire at reception
Thursday 7 June, 11am-1pm (mosi.org.uk)
Glasgow Museums Resource Centre
A snapshot of the vast collection of objects that we store on behalf of the City of Glasgow. This tour is a great introduction to GMRC, and is recommended for anyone visiting the venue for the first time. You'll get an idea of the range and scale of Glasgow Museums' collections.
Please note: advance booking is essential. If booking for 4 June, please contact the museum direct on 0141 276 9300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org giving name, email, telephone and date of tour.
Meet at 200 Woodhead Road, Glasgow
Monday 4 June, 2.30-3.30pm; Tuesday 5 June, 2.30-3.30pm; Wednesday 6 June, 2.30-3.30pm; Thursday 7 June, 2.30-3.30pm; Sunday 10 June 2.30-3.30pm (tiny.cc/glasgowlife)
Moray Museum Service looks after over 30,000 objects, many of which are kept in the museum store, when not on display in the Falconer Museum. Take a tour through the eclectic collections housed in the Museum Store, from Mexican Milagros to Indian mica miniatures, tiger skins to moths, forceps to golden false teeth.
Meet at Moray Museums Store at the top of Leys Road, Tolbooth Street, Forres
Thursday 7 June, 2.30-3.30pm, 7-8pm; Saturday 9 June, 2.30-3.30pm (falconermuseum.co.uk)
Marischal Museum, University of Aberdeen
Explore the hidden gems within the University of Aberdeen Museum stores, including a guided walk through the old Marischal Museum galleries. Visitors will be invited into the conservation lab and the main store. Expect some intriguing tales too...
Meet at Reception
Friday 8 June, 1-2pm, 3-4pm; Saturday 9 June, 10-11am, 11.30am-12.30pm
National Museums Scotland
From Moby the whale to dinosaur bones, from motorbikes to traction engines – the material gathered here is as diverse as it is vast. The stored material enables us to refresh exhibitions and study subjects in depth. Visit our state-of-the-art conservation laboratories and enhanced storage for the national collections.
Access conditions: the tour will include stairs and therefore is not suitable for wheelchair access. Children must be accompanied
Meet at National Museums Collection Centre, 242 West Granton Road, Edinburgh
Friday 8 June, 10.30am-12.30pm; Saturday 9 June, 10.30am-12.30pm
National Maritime Museum at No. 1 Smithery, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham
No. 1 Smithery houses ship models from the National Maritime Museum and Imperial War Museum: with over 3,000 items it is one of the finest collections in the world. Special conditions: Please note that The Independent voucher does not cover admission prices to The Historic Dockyard Chatham, other than to No. 1 Smithery.
Meet at The main visitor entrance, 20 minutes before the tour is due to start. Visitors will then be directed to No. 1 Smithery.
Saturday 9 June, 10.30-11.15am, 12noon-12.45pm, 2-2.45pm, 3.15-4pm (thedockyard.co.uk)
Hypatia Trust, Penzance
An opportunity to discover the Elizabeth Treffry Collection on Women in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Displays and tours of the collection will take place in the informal and homely surroundings of Trevelyan House, a grade II-listed Georgian gem in the heart of historic Penzance.
Meet at Trevelyan House, 16 Chapel Street, Penzance,
Monday 4 June 2.30-3pm, Tuesday 5 June 2.30-3pm, Wednesday 6 June, 2.30-3pm, Thursday 7 June 2.30-3pm, Friday 8 June, 2.30-3pm
St John's Museum Store
Explore the hidden treasures in the museum store. Marvel at the range of historical spa equipment, find out more about furniture by local craftsmen.
Meet at St Johns Museum Store, Upper Bristol Road, Bath
Saturday 9 June, 11am-12noon, 12.30-1.30pm, 2-3pm
Bristol Museums & Galleries
These exclusive behind the scenes tours will be led by experts in geology, biology and ethnography, providing a unique insight into these extraordinary and diverse collections.
Meet at Museum reception
Wednesday 6 June, Geology tour 11-11.30am, Biology tour, 11-11.30am, Ethnography tour, 11.30am-12noon, Ethnography tour 1-1.30pm, Biology tour, 1-1.30pm (bristol.gov.uk/node/2904)
Discover this unique collection celebrating the history of Bristol and its residents and enjoy the museum's selection of working dockside exhibits, including four electric cranes and the Pyronaut, a 1930s fireboat.
Meet at Reception
Wednesday 6 June, 2.30–3.15pm; Thursday 7 June, 11.30am–12.15pm
The Cardiff Story Museum
Uncovering Cardiff's Hidden Treasures: The Cardiff Story opened in 2011, with interactive displays exploring Cardiff's past, and with help from the public we have built the city's collection up from scratch in just a few years! Over the coming months we're particularly looking for objects related to culture, leisure, community and sport, for our future displays. Whether it's a vinyl record, football, tea pot or photograph, it's the personal memories that help tell Cardiff's history. If you have Cardiff-related objects that you'd like to donate, then bring them to this unique event, and speak to one of our team.
Meet at Museum foyer
Saturday 9 June, 10-10.45am, 11-11.45am, 12noon -12.45pm, 1-1.45pm (cardiffstory.com)
Wrexham County Borough Museum and Archives
Spend the morning in our collections centre seeing and handling the objects not normally on display. Learn about how we care for our objects and take a peek in our store. Meet the team and ask us any questions you may have about your own prized possessions.
Meet at Museum collections centre, Regent Street, Wrexham
Friday 8 June, 10.30am-12.30pm
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum (Royal Warwickshire)
Look behind the scenes at the hidden treasures that the museum does not display! This tour will take you into the attic store, which holds around two-thirds of the items in the collection. You will get a glimpse of areas of the house not normally accessible to visitors.
Meet at First floor reception, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum, St John's House, Warwick
Thursday 7 June, 10.30-11am, 11.30am-12noon, 1.30-2pm,2-2.30pm; Friday 8 June, 10.30-11am, 11.30am-12noon, 1.30-2pm, 2-2.30pm; Saturday 9 June 10.30-11am, 11.30am-12noon, 1.30-2pm, 2-2.30pm (warwickfusiliers.co.uk)
To celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the RBSA Gallery presents a display of "hidden treasures" about the life and work of Teresa Lady Clarke RBSA, the first female Member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA).
Meet at Gallery reception
Open during museum hours from 4 to 11 June (rbsa.org.uk)
Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum
Discover the Natural History of Worcestershire since 1833. The atmospheric stores give a fascinating insight into the history of the area. Led by a collections officer who has over 40 years' experience of working with the collection.
Meet at Museum reception
Wednesday 6 June, 2-2.40pm; Thursday 7 June 2-2.40pm; Friday 8 June 2-2.40pm
The Birmingham Assay Office
A rare opportunity to visit the Birmingham Assay Office's historic silver collection, which contains pieces dating from the 18th century to the present day by leading silversmiths such as Matthew Boulton, Elkington and Co and Nathaniel Mills.
Meet at The Birmingham Assay Office, corner of Charlotte Street and Newhall Street, Birmingham
Friday 8 June, 2-4pm
Cadbury Research Library
Experience unique collections of manuscripts and rare books on an enormous range of subjects, ranging from a 9th-century Kufic koran to Neville Chamberlain's notes from his 1938 meetings with Hitler. See conservation in action and tour our strong rooms.
Meet at Cadbury Research Library, Muirhead Tower (Lower Ground Floor), University of Birmingham, Edgbaston
Thursday 7 June, 2-3pm, 3-4pm
University of Birmingham Research & Cultural Collections
Discover a cornucopia of extraordinary artefacts – view material and handle objects from the university heritage collection that throws light on the history and developing traditions of the University.
Meet at The Study Centre, 32 Pritchatts Road, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston
Thursday 7 June, 3.30-5pm
Birmingham Museums, Museum Collections Centre
An exclusive opportunity to visit one of the largest museum stores in the country, described as an "Aladdin's cave". See hundreds of items from our science, transport, social history and sculpture collections. Expert staff will be on hand to talk to you about the collections.
Meet at Main museum entrance
Friday 8 June, 1-3.30pm
YORKSHIRE & HUMBERSIDE
The Yorkshire Museums Trust Book Club
The book club meets monthly to discuss a book which relates to an aspect of our collections. Each session also includes access to relevant museum objects which are not currently on display. Independent readers are invited to their own book club session to discuss This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson, followed by a visit to the Yorkshire Museum Library, which is not currently open to the general public
Meet at Museum reception
Saturday 9 June, 12.30-2pm
Ring 01904 650333 or email email@example.com to book your place
The Cutlers' Hall, Sheffield
Four Hundred Years of Paperwork! The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire has protected and promoted Sheffield's metal trades since 1624. Visitors can meet the archivist, and browse a display of some of the archives used for family and local history studies.
Meet at Front entrance
Wednesday 6 June, 2-2.30pm; Thursday 7 June, 10.30am-12noon, 2-2.30pm
Leeds Museum Discovery Centre
Step inside this state-of-the-art museum storage facility and discover over one million fascinating objects from elephant skulls to a medieval log boat, mummy bandages and meteorites.
Meet at Reception desk
Thursday 7 June, 11am-12noon, 2-3pm (leeds.gov.uk/discoverycentre)
The oldest working astronomical observatory in Yorkshire, dating from the 1830s. Expert staff will introduce the observatory and telescope.
Meet at Observatory, Yorkshire Museum Gardens, York
Thursday 7 June, 11.30am-12.30pm, 12.30-1.30pm,1.30-2.30pm; Saturday 9 June 11.30am-12.30pm, 12.30-1.30pm, 1.30-2.30pm (yorkshiremuseum. org.uk/Page/Visiting.aspx)
Temple Newsam House
Hidden Temple Newsam: take a guided tour through the hidden passages and cellars below this magnificent Jacobean House. Some steep steps and uneven surfaces. Not suitable for the under-sevens.
Meet at Reception
Saturday 9 June, 11am-12.30pm
Discover Britain's national collection of arms and armour. Visitors will have a rare opportunity to discover some of the hidden treasures of the museum's archives including fencing manuals from the time of William Shakespeare and diaries, letters, journals and photographs of soldiers from the early 19th century to the First World War.
Meet at Reception, Royal Armouries Museum, Armouries Drive, Leeds
Tuesday 5 June, 11am-12noon; Wednesday 6 June 11am-12.00noon; Thursday 7June 11am-12noon
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies