A new Discovery Centre has opened at Killerton House, Broadclyst, near Exeter. In its heyday in Victorian times, the Killerton estate of Sir John Acland was one of the finest in England. The display in the erstwhile schoolroom recreates that atmosphere with a mock-up of the Victorian drawing room and four cardboard figures (butler, housekeeper, ladies' maid, laundry maid) whose diaries and budgets children can compare - for the laundry maid, "4am, get up, scrub collars". There is also a handling collection for each figure and complete Victorian costumes for children to dress up in.
The second room concentrates on the rich environment to be explored in the estate. An oak tree made from a Killerton oak stump and silk leaves dominates a room filled with exhibits which show the connections of the natural world: touchy-feely boxes, large jigsaws showing the food web and adaptations of birds, animals and insects, and a CD-Rom.
Admission to Killerton is on a variable tariff, with booking essential for school groups who may find it a bargain to belong to the National Trust. An education pack is available and the centre is staffed by volunteers at holidays and weekends for family use. Tel: 01392 881345.
* The first mobile museum and arts coach in Scotland has just been launched by Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery and has, says outreach officer Emma Nicolson, been "inundated with bookings" from local Fife schools.
The 15-capacity bus carries an eclectic "alphabet selection" from the museum's holdings and each group gets 30 minutes of interpretative work. This includes looking at such entertaining items as "Q is for Queen" (a puppet donated from local Whistlestop Theatre) or "U is for underwear" (Victorian slips and drawers hanging on the line), and getting their hands on substitutes from the handling collection. The first tour, free to all schools in Fife and with funding from local industry and government, is an introduction to the riches of the local museum. Future tours will be themed. Tel: 01592 260732.
* The revamped Discovery Museum, Newcastle has a huge new entrance in the shape of a glass-roofed courtyard housing Turbinia, the first steam-turbine-propelled vessel and once the fastest ship on the oceans. In 1897 she set a record of 34 knots (about 40 mph) at Queen Victoria's Spithead review.
The Turbinia design was the prototype for a fighting navy that was the envy of the world. However, the 100-ft long vessel was retired long ago and has been languishing in an annexe of the Tyne and Wear Science Museum since the end of the Second World War. The firm in which her designer, Sir Charles Parsons, worked has now been absorbed in Rolls-Royce, which is sponsoring the exhibition.
Social history, the science base of turbine engines and the development of steam power all feature in the multi-media installations accompanying the displayed ship, which forms an exciting introduction to the free Discovery Museum. Tel: 0191 232 6789.