The Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society was established in 1823 when “philosophical” meant natural philosophy – that is science. The Society has approximately 700 members from a very wide variety of backgrounds and few of whom would claim to be either literary or philosophical!
Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society is a charitable trust (Charity Commission number 1171266.) Its Committee of trustees are elected from among its membership, and meet monthly to review and oversee its activities.
The chief object of the Society was to setup and maintain a museum, specialising in fossils, since “Whitby is a chief town of a district abounding with petrifications and containing not a few Antiquities.”
The museum opened in September 1823 and the collections soon filled the original two rooms over shops on Baxtergate. Eventually in 1931 the Museum moved to purpose built premises in Pannett Park where it is still located.
The Society is operated mostly by volunteers, and is managed on a day-to-day basis by the Hon. Keeper, assisted by the Committee and the other Officers, and the sectional curators who look after the individual areas of the Museum. They are assisted by two part-time paid staff, an Operations Manager, and a Registrar, who look after the administrative side. There are also two part-time Museum Assistants who, along with volunteers, greet visitors as they arrive at the Front Desk.
In accordance with a 1948 High Court Order and ancient tradition, the collections are held ‘in trust for the people of Whitby.’ Residents of Whitby Town parish have the right of free admission.
Membership also means that you have access to most areas of the Museum and are able to attend the regular talks and borrow books from the Library.