Focus on: The Captain Cook Memorial Museum

Date Posted: 23/08/2014

Subjects: History, Geography, Art & Design
Venue: Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby, Yorkshire     
Key Stages: 1-4

Discover the story behind one of the most famous explorers and navigators in one of Captain Cooks’ actual lodgings.

The Captain Cook Memorial Museum is housed in the 17th century shipmaster’s house on the harbour, to which James Cook came in 1746 to be an apprentice seaman. It was where his master Captain John Walker lodged him when he was not at sea.

For older students and a modern world, Captain Cook may be presented as an inspiring exemplar of lifelong learning and career change.

Pupils visiting the museum can analyse the steps, attitudes and actions which made the farm boy Cook the most celebrated explorer of his time.  

Over the years, the museum has assembled an impressive collection of authentic, original exhibits about Cook, his crews, and the scientists and artists who sailed with him on his voyages.

What pupils can expect to see at the Captain Cook Museum

Children will first be introduced to a collection of maps showing how little was known of Australia and the Pacific before Cook sailed, and the risks of sailing in totally unknown waters. 

Period rooms then give a flavour of the house as it was in Cook’s day and the influence of the environment of a Quaker master-mariner. 

Upstairs, on the first floor are three rooms, each dedicated to successive phases of Cook’s life.

First his nine years in Whitby; next the London room, London because that was his base and home while his naval service took him to Canada and a growing reputation; and then the Voyages Room, with its impressive model of Resolution, with the entire crew and stores shown which had to be loaded.

On the next floor, two more rooms are dedicated to the artists and scientists who sailed with him; and finally the attic where Cook lodged from time to time, which looks out over the harbour where the ships were built in which he sailed on his voyages. 

The museum’s education team

Six retired professionals, including two head teachers, a youth worker and a clergyman make up the education team at the museum. 

Schools should allow two hours at the museum for a visit. Next year when a new education room with more facilities is open, a half day will be offered including activities.

Depending on what schools ask for, an introductory session on the story of Cook can be provided by the team. 

Handling collections provoke further interaction, and the group divides into smaller parties to go round the museum with members of the team.

A schools Discovery Pack is available, which is packed with guidance and ideas for activities, both to do on site and to follow up in the classroom.

The museum is closed to the general public between November and mid-February. However school visits are accepted throughout the year by prior arrangement with the operations manager who takes details of schools’ special requirements. 

Whitby as a destination for school groups

Whitby has no difficulty in keeping a school party busy, as between Whitby Abbey and the Captain Cook Museum it covers 1,500 years of British history, plus a collection of dinosaur fossils at the Whitby Museum.

Boat trips and fossil hunting can also be arranged for school groups and the town has literary connections with Dickens, Lewis Carroll and Bram Stoker.

For more information about the Captain Cook Memorial Museum contact:


School Travel Organiser's Guide