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Dorset County Museum Spotlight

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Dorset’s award winning County Museum which is centrally located on High West Street is the perfect starting point for an exploration of the history of the town and the surrounding area. It also makes a unique venue if you are planning a special event.

The Dorset County Museum is a family friendly Museum has a fantastic array of fascinating galleries, dealing with a wide range of subjects including archaeology, farming history, Dorset wildlife, art, history and literature with special emphasis on the history of Thomas Hardy and the Jurassic Coast.

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy's Study at The Dorset County Museum
Thomas Hardy’s Study at The Dorset County Museum

Thomas Hardy promoted the beautiful countryside and unspoilt landscape of his native county of Dorset. Hardy is well known for his beautiful but often harsh portrayal of rural England set in and around his beloved Wessex. The son of a local stonemason, he was born at Higher Bockhampton located three miles northeast of Dorchester on the 2nd June 1840.

If you have been inspired by the work of Thomas Hardy either through his novels and poems or the many TV adaptations of his books, you will enjoy the Thomas Hardy gallery with its comprehensive collection, including manuscripts, books, diaries, photographs, notebooks and paintings. At the centre of the Gallery is the reconstruction of Hardy’s study at Max Gate, with all his books and furniture, including his desk and pens. The Dorset County Museum contains the largest Hardy memorabilia collection in the world, the bulk of which was bequeathed to the Museum by his second wife Florence Hardy.

Jurassic Coast

The Interior of The Dorset County Museum
The Interior of The Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum opened its new state-of-the-art, 185 million year ‘walk through time’ Jurassic Coast Gallery in summer 2006. The original Geology gallery was transformed using a £336,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Jurassic coastline of Dorset is a fossil hunting haven for both novice and experienced fossil collectors. The 150km (95 mile) stretch of coastline covering Dorset and East Devon spans 185 million years of geological history and has been granted World Heritage Status.

Visitors to the Gallery will learn how the coast was formed millions of years ago, what you can see along the coastline today, and why its exposed geology is of international importance.

All ages and abilities can experience the Jurassic Coast geological story through touch, sound, text, and interactive displays. Children can follow the dinosaur tracks to measure themselves against a Megalosaurus or ‘giant lizard’, work on activities such as the fossil discovery table and the two flying Pterosaurs are also sure to be the centre of much attention!

Visitors can also find out more details about the enormous Pliosaur that was recently discovered on a local beach. 25 large pieces of a fossil collected by Mr Sheehan, a local amateur fossil collector, were identified by palaeontologists as a Pliosaur. Only one fragment was missing from the front of the jaw. This marine reptile, measuring somewhere between 10-16 meters, lived about 140 million years ago and was believed to have been so powerful it could have bitten a car in half. The extremely rare find, in almost pristine condition, has been purchased by Dorset County Council for £20,000 with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is being prepared for permanent display in the Dorset County Museum. The discovery of the Pliosaur has captured people’s imagination and inspired many to discover the joys of fossil hunting along our Dorset coast.

The Dorset County Museum has some great offers – two children are admitted for free with every adult.

And there is plenty to keep them occupied with interactive workstations throughout the Museum. You can also make learning fun by picking up one of four Museum Trails at reception to follow while they explore the Museum. In addition there are activity carts in the Victorian Gallery and in the Archaeology Gallery to keep children amused with puzzles, quizzes, dressing up and drawing activities based around the Museum collections.

The Dorset County Museum Club

Children aged between 7 and 14 years can join the Museum Club. There is a £10 annual membership fee and the club meets one Saturday per month 10.30am – 12.30pm. For 2010, new Museum Club Members will receive a special joining pack. Children above 14 years can join the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society with annual membership from only £24.

Corporate Events at the Dorset County Museum

The Dorset County Museum also makes an ideal novel venue for corporate entertaining and evening receptions, offering facilities for both a seated buffet supper or a cocktail party. Guests will be transfixed by the ambience within the Victorian Hall with its fine cast ironwork arches framing an array of museum displays, curios, furniture and oil paintings.

Opening Times

Virtual Tour of the Museum
Virtual Tour of the Museum

During the peak summer season July to September, Dorchester Museum is open seven days a week 10am to 5pm, and outside these months it is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm. Admission charges are £6.50 per adult and £4.50 for seniors / concessions.  Two children up to the age of 15 are admitted free with every adult.

Whether you live locally or are planning a visit to our historic town, make sure Dorset County Museum is on your must see list. Why not try a visit to the new Virtual Dorchester pages and get a spectacular inside virtual view of the Museum before you visit.

Also look out for a programme of exhibitions in The Temporary Exhibition Gallery; these change at regular intervals and cover a variety of fascinating topics, from art and photography to literature and the Natural Sciences.

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