Keep up with all the latest news and updates from the museum.

Staycation fun promised at NESM

20 July 2021

Families planning a Yorkshire staycation this year can enjoy a summer of fun at our museum thanks to a series of exclusive events and activities planned over the coming weeks.

Getting hands-on is the order of the day at our summer CSI school, Daring Detectives. Budding investigators can polish up their Victorian detective skills and learn about 19th century crime scene investigation. Youngsters will get hands on with sand, paint, microscopes and more, and try out methods like fingerprint analysis before attempting to crack a dastardly crime.

Due to popular demand, additional sensory play sessions for children under five have been added in July and August. On Friday 23 July youngsters can explore the seaside, play in the sand, splash about with boats and singalong with some sea shanties to learn more about the RNLI. On 27 August visitors can become a firefighter for the day, make fire helmets and learn about how to stay safe when there is a fire.

For youngsters interested in science and medicine, there’s a rare opportunity to get hands-on with the basics of forensic anthropology under the guidance of expert Dr Chris Aris. In this session, on 6 August, children will discover what human bones and skulls can tell a forensic scientist and will get the chance to reconstruct a human face in clay.

Other events during 2021 include an exclusive programme of talks, led by a roster of leading experts, covering the history of the police, crime and punishment. Topics include the life of the Victorian bobby, 19th century punishments and early forensic science.

And don't forget, if you upgrade your entry ticket to an annual pass for no extra cost, you could come and visit us for a different activity every week! 

For full details of the museum’s 2021 events and booking information go to our What's On pages.

We are open!

19 May 2021

After a closure of more than six months - our second one since March 2020 - we have reopened to visitors today!


While we’ve been closed our team of staff and volunteers have been working hard to refresh the museum, create new exhibits and make the visitor experience even bigger and better.

The star attraction is a brand new exhibition, ‘Daring Detectives and Dastardly Deeds’, housed in the museum’s original Victorian cells. Another major exhibition, 'Fiery Blaze to Fire Brigade', has also been added during the last year.


Vehicles and other objects not previously on display at the museum are also on show, alongside all the old favourites like our 47-foot ex-RNLI lifeboat. Improved signage around the building helps to tell the story of NESM’s historic home as well as the many emergency services it celebrates. 

The addition of a lift - the first time the museum has had one - and improved toilet facilities have improved accessibility for all visitors.

We can’t wait for everyone to see the changes we’ve made - it’s almost like we’re a new museum!

Museum acquires unique personal archive

5 May 2021

NESM has acquired the unique personal archive of the detective who led the hunt for Jack the Ripper - including a book in which he names the infamous Whitechapel murderer - and will make it public for the first time.

The private collection of Metropolitan Police Chief Inspector Donald Sutherland Swanson has been entrusted to NESM by the former detective’s family. The treasure trove lay undiscovered for decades until Swanson’s descendants discovered an enormous collection of over 150 individual objects; paperwork, photographs, letters, drawings and personal belongings. 

Among them was what became known as ‘the Swanson marginalia’; a book, annotated by Swanson, in which he names the person he believed to be the infamous killer, Jack the Ripper. The marginalia is thought to be a unique artefact revealing unknown details of the case as well as theories and notes on what evidence the Metropolitan Police had gathered - all from the pen of the inspector charged with solving the case.

The marginalia, along with other items from the collection, will form part of a new exhibition, Daring Detectives & Dastardly Deeds, which will be revealed to visitors when the museum reopens on Wednesday 19 May. The exhibition, housed within NESM’s original Victorian cells, explores the intriguing history of 19th crime and punishment from the bobby on the beat to the emerging science of forensics.

The Swanson collection is thought to be one of the most detailed and significant of its kind. It includes official police paperwork and documents from a number of nationally significant criminal cases as well as Swanson’s own personal findings, theories and evaluations, arrest lists and the resources he used to solve some of his cases. 

Holly Roberts, curator at NESM, says, ‘We are so proud to have been given the honour of caring for this outstanding collection, and to help shed light on the achievements of a remarkable man whose story has been largely forgotten.

‘This vast collection tells us an enormous amount about what it was like to be a detective in 19th century Britain. Even more unusually, there is so much of his professional career and his family and personal life, offering us a unique picture of what a prominent 19th century detective did in his work time and his down time. It is an amazing addition to our museum and to our new exhibition.’

Adam Wood, executive editor of Ripperologist magazine and author of the definitive biography of Swanson, helped to secure the collection for NESM. He said, 'During my seven years of research into Donald Swanson's life I realised that he had enjoyed amazing career, much more than just his known involvement in the Jack the Ripper investigation. The 35-year period of the late Victorian era in which Swanson served was one of massive development for the Metropolitan Police, culminating in the dawn of fingerprint detection. Perhaps more than anyone, it was he who epitomised the evolving Victorian detective, representing that era in the force’s history. 

‘Although a modest man, he was feted in the national press of the day as one of the country's best detectives – and indeed he rose to become Superintendent of the CID at Scotland Yard, the top detective in the country – so it's astonishing that he is largely unknown today, whereas contemporaries such as Frederick Abberline are familiar names. From the discovery of the archive in the early 1980s the Swanson family have sought proper recognition of their ancestor's achievements, so it has been a joy bringing this to fruition by working with the National Emergency Services Museum to make the Donald Swanson collection accessible to all.'

As well as forming part of the museum’s new exhibition, NESM is also planning to digitise the collection and make it more widely accessible to researchers and historians. It is looking to begin several research projects around the Swanson archive in partnership with researchers and colleagues to understand what can be learnt from the collection and will be hosting a series of workshops, talks and special events to celebrate the Donald Swanson story.

Daring Detectives & Dastardly Deeds

19 March 2021

We are excited to announce a brand new exhibition for 2021.

Daring Detectives & Dastardly Deeds will take you on a journey through the dark and dangerous streets of 19th century Britain as you follow the history of our police force, from uniformed police to detectives and forensics. Wander through our Victorian police cells and be immersed in the smells, sounds and sights of the 19th century, from talking portraits and projections to have-a-go detective games and dress-up.  

Get to know the people behind the history, from the men that patrolled the streets to those that found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Discover more than 60 objects on display including exhibits relating to the Jack the Ripper case, a genuine death mask, tools of the detective's trade, uniforms and even a hangman’s noose.

  • Be brave and get to know the poisoners, forgers, murderers and thieves of 19th century England.

  • Try your hand at some of the detective and forensic methods used by Sherlock Holmes.

  • Get close and personal with rare original documents from the Jack the Ripper case.

  • Try and solve some of the trickiest detective cases of the 19th century.


This exhibition is suitable for all ages but please note there are references to criminal cases as well as objects relating to crime scenes and criminality.

Please note: Daring Detectives & Dastardly Deeds will be available when the museum reopens. Keep an eye out on the website and our social media for more information.