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The Dinosaur Museum

Friday, February 5th, 2010
Dinosaur Skeleton at The Dinoasur Museum
Dinosaur Skeleton at The Dinosaur Museum

Although dinosaurs became extinct nearly 65 million years ago, they are very much alive in the hearts and minds of today’s children and adults all over the world. For dinosaur lovers, Dorset offers 2 great attractions, The Dinosaur Museum and fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coastline. The 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.

The Dinosaur Museum is located on Icen Way in the centre of Dorchester. The museum, which celebrated its 25th birthday on Saturday 27th June 2009, was an instant success when it opened being the only museum on mainland Britain dedicated to dinosaurs. It has won many accolades including twice being voted one of Britain’s Top Ten Hands-on Museums, as well as Dorset’s Family Attraction of the Year. Most recently it was chosen as one of Britain’s Ten Best Child-Friendly Museums.

Our fascination with Dinosaurs

The museum is a real treat for children and it combines life-sized reconstructions of dinosaurs with fossils and skeletons to create an exciting hands-on experience. Our fascination with dinosaurs started in the 1820s when the first true discoveries of dinosaur bones were made in England. Then in 1841 Sir Richard Owen invented the word “dinosauria” – meaning terrible lizard’ – to describe this group of prehistoric monsters. More recently the Steven Spielberg films “Jurassic Park” and the BBC’s magnificent science programmes ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ has excited people’s imagination.

This interest in the history of dinosaurs and sense of “dinomania” is reflected in The Dinosaur Museum. Multimedia displays tell the story of the prehistoric animals that ruled the land for some 150 million years, finally becoming extinct 65 million years ago. Life-size dinosaur reconstructions – including Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus, and Triceratops – beg to be touched by little hands – that’s encouraged.

Children Love Dinosaurs

Children from a very early age seem fascinated by these prehistoric beasts. They quickly learn their names, and all the dinosaur facts associated with them. Dinosaurs help to extend a child’s imagination and channel that interest to study science and this is recognised in the National Curriculum. It is no surprise then, that the Museum is extremely popular with schools linking various topics to the study of dinosaurs, and the Dinosaur Museum has an enviable reputation for its educational services. The Dinosaur Museum is a family museum and has frequently appeared on television, usually in children’s programmes such as Blue Peter, the Tweenies and many others.

The Triceratops dominates the Museum’s courtyard and on entering the museum children will encounter a complete dinosaur skeleton of the famous meat-eating Megalosaurus, a Jurassic dinosaur, with its sickle-shaped claws and teeth, mounted over a set of very rare footprints made by that dinosaur.

Megalosaurus was the first dinosaur to be scientifically named 175 years ago, by Reverend William Buckland. This skeleton vividly contrasts with the skeleton of the small fleet-footed vegetarian dinosaur Hypsilophodon. My son visited the museum with his school this week and enjoyed creating his own dinosaur on the computer. There are hands on displays, dinosaur skeletons and dinosaur reconstructions to keep the children entertained.

In the Buckland Room there is a life size reconstruction of a Corythosaurus known affectionately as Dina to all in the museum. She was originally made by the special effects team of the BBC hit sci-fi series Dr Who. Called “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” the programmes starred Jon Pertwee as the Doctor and Elizabeth Sladen as his assistant – Sarah Jane Smith.

Among the most dramatic displays are the awe inspiring life-size dinosaur reconstructions. There are two life-size dinosaur reconstructions, of T rex, one of the largest meat eating land animal ever and of a Stegosaurus with its strangely shaped ridge of plates along its back. Children are encouraged to touch the displays with hands including some of the dinosaur fossils.

After visiting the museum you can view the dinosaur news blog which offers an up to date source on palaeonthology and prehistoric creatures and news on fossil finds during the year.  Or, view the recent Pliosaur film reporting on the 25 large pieces of a fossil collected by Mr Sheehan along the Dorset coast.

The Dinosaur Museum Facilities

Look inside The Dinosaur Museum at Virtual Dorchester
Look inside The Dinosaur Museum at Virtual Dorchester

The ground floor of the Museum is accessible for people using a wheelchair (only one step with temporary ramp at the entrance). The two upstairs galleries are inaccessible to wheelchair users and to compensate a concessionary rate is charged. Car parking and a wide range of cafes and restaurants in Dorchester can be found within easy walking distance of the Museum.

The Dinosaur Museum is open all year round and during the holiday period April to October it is open Monday to Sunday between 9.30am and 5.30pm.

Between November and March it is open reduced hours 10.00am to 4.30pm. Admission is £6.75 per adult, Children over 4 £4.95, Seniors/Students £5.75 and a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) is £21.00.

Please contact the Museum for special rates for groups and schools.

There is an online shop selling everything from fossils, dinosaur DVDs, toys, dinosaur t-shirts, stationery and museum souvenirs.

Why not try a visit the Virtual Dorchester pages to view the new 360 degrees virtual tour of the Museum to get an overview of this fantastic family attraction and be part of the Jurassic Experience.

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