The long-awaited opening of Dorset Museum is here!Monday, June 7th, 2021
The eagerly anticipated opening of Dorset Museum is here at last! Following an extensive redevelopment project, the stunning county town attraction has recently opened its doors to the public. The already fabulous selection of museums in Dorchester just got even better!
Renamed and rebranded, Dorset Museum opened last month after a 3 year transformation. Must-see new galleries and interactive displays showcase the museum’s world renowned collections.
We caught up with Roger Maughan, Commercial Director at Dorset Museum to dig a little deeper behind-the-scenes.
Can you give an overview of the project?
To have the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund from the very beginning, was in itself, a great achievement. They believed in the project and have now witnessed that whole journey to where we are today. They have joined us at the launch as visitors and the feedback we’ve had from them has been absolutely fantastic.
From the initial digging into the ground, the closing of Colliton Street (the residents were so supportive), to where we are today. It’s a testament to the desire of people wanting to make this project work.
The project took just over 30 months to complete. The total spend both in terms of the build and all of the finishes was £16.1 million.
What are the main new features in Dorset Museum?
From the Atrium forward all four main galleries are new. Aside from the Victorian Hall – everything else is new build – from down into the basement right the way through to the third floor.
How many more exhibits are now included?
We’ve still got our main collection apart from Elisabeth Frink exhibition which is all new – you can see this now in the Artists’ Dorset Gallery. Everything else is our own collection which gets enhanced over time. We’ve never had the space before to be able to show it all – until now.
We also have temporary exhibitions which start from the opening on the 28th May right running throughout the whole of the year. And we’ve got more booked through for the next couple of years. All are aimed at very different audiences. From a more serious market to more of a family orientated audience – Elmer and Friends coming in October is a wonderful temporary exhibition.
How much more interactivity can visitors expect?
Dorset Museum reaches out to that younger audience, and also to people who want to interact. People who want to sit and just take in some of the great AV presentations, and hear those voices talk about the rich Dorset history.
The Natural Dorset Gallery has activities which for young children especially, are fantastic. The Learning Centre in particular is where we encourage learning experiences and welcome school visits. We’ve also got an inflatable museum which we can take to schools and seats 32 children – our offer to schools is now second to none.
What impact do you think Dorset Museum will have in Dorchester?
There’s a great opportunity now to make Dorchester a culture hub. Working together with Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum and The Keep Military Museum – we can help drive that extra footfall to the town. All the shops and businesses around us can benefit as well. If we can mirror what happened with the success of Dippy – it can only be a good thing!
Have Dorset Museum tickets been selling well so far?
They have – we went live on 17th May with our brand new website and online ticketing. The take-up has been fantastic – and it’s been just wonderful to witness.
Along with that our partnership with Taste for example – what we’re saying to visitors is just pop in and use Taste for breakfast or have a cup of coffee. If you’d like to have a look round come and see us about our annual pass.
We’ve moved away from day prices as we believe its better value going forward to purchase an annual pass from us. Adult is £15, a child is £8 and we’ve got two family packages as well. It’s a positive step to encourage repeat visits.
The membership package offers full entry into the museum throughout the year. As well as 10% discount in our retail and 10% discount in the shop. On top of that, we offer six complimentary one day passes to members, which they can hand out to family and friends.
How do you feel now the project is complete?
Dr Jon Murden first looked at this project back in 2012. For him to drive that and see this achievement through – it states his belief at the time – he’s manged to take people on this journey. We’ve had trustees, volunteers and other partners coming in to support us financially. Some of our staff have been here all the way through. They are pinching themselves as they have a fabulous stage to work from now. We all should be very proud to have created this legacy – and then look back in the future and say I was part of that journey.
We can only have done it as team. I must thank Acheson Construction and PGP from Poundbury for their project management – many have joined us at the launch with their families. A chance to show off a bit as its something to be proud and very different to a housing estate or block of flats.
Along the way we’ve had challenges, but we’re here now and we should all be very proud of ourselves!
Tickets for Dorset Museum are on sale now from dorsetmuseum.org