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Museums at Night Success

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
Museums at Night
Museums at Night

The Museums at Night event has proved to be a fantastic success.

Dorchester boasts no fewer than six museums, and Museums at Night saw them unite last weekend to keep their doors open until 9pm for a family admission price of only £6 plus discount meal deals too.

DBID’s Phil Gordon praised the concept:

I’ve never seen so many families in the town of a Saturday evening. The was a great atmosphere and many of the visitors were wishing to visit as many museums as possible to get the full flavour of what was on offer.

It also proves that Dorchester can work as an evening venue.

Rachael Hayward from Culture24 who are the national body that organise Museums at Night made a special visit to the town in the evening.

We take up her commentary on the evening:-

Samantha Allner with sons Callum (13) and Henry (7), from Dorchester, thought Museums at Night was "excellent value"
Samantha Allner with sons Callum (13) and Henry (7), from Dorchester, thought Museums at Night was “excellent value”

The museums’ offerings were eclectic, surprising and inspiring: from the Romans to Tutankhamun, dinosaurs to teddy bears, local military history and dinosaurs, there was more than enough to keep kids happy. The central locations of the museums also made getting around nice and simple.

“It was great coming along as a family and I learnt things tonight I didn’t know,” admitted mum Samantha Allner (above).

Brothers Callum and Henry both gave Museums at Night a 10 out of 10 score.

Visitors were introduced to real moths as well as ones in the Museum’s collection at the Dorset County Museum

“One of my highlights was seeing Hitler’s Desk in The Keep Military Museum,” said teenager Callum. “I’d only been to the Museum before when I was little, so it was great to go again tonight.”

His younger brother, Henry, was more enamoured by the laser shooting in The Keep and the Mummy’s head in The Tutankhamun Exhibition.

The Dorset County Museum

The Dorset County Museum
The Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum opened its doors late for visitors to step back in time to discover more about the history of Dorset.

Many of the Museum’s Galleries have interactive workstations and specific challenges and activities for children such as the fossil discovery table in the Geology Gallery.

Younger members of the Garrity and Townsend families played at being dinosaurs in The Dinosaur Museum

There were 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’s collections.

The Dinosaur Museum

The Dinosaur Museum
The Dinosaur Museum

Lying just seven miles away from the Jurassic Coast, a visit to Britain’s original Dinosaur Museum was not to be missed on Museums at Night.

The Museum combines contains life-sized reconstructions of dinosaurs (the usual suspects such as: T-Rex, Stegosaurus and Triceratops) with actual fossils and real dinosaur skeletons to create a truly hands-on experience.

Touching was positively encouraged.

The Keep Military Museum

The Keep Military Museum presents the courageous stories of the soldiers and their families who have served in the regiments of Devon and Dorset for more than 300 years with interactive displays and spectacular night-time views from the battlements.

Joshua Curry (14) comes face to face with Ancient Egypt

The Tutankhamun Exhibition

Tutankhamun Museum
Tutankhamun Museum

We left Dorset’s history behind us and headed along to Ancient Egypt at The Tutankhamun Exhibition. The Exhibition is a recreation of Tutankhamun’s tomb and treasures.

The current exhibition of Tutankhamun follows the Treasures of Tutankhamun Exhibition which was shown in London at the British Museum in 1972.

The golden Mask of Tutankhamun and many of the major treasures are too vulnerable to leave their home in Egypt again, so the Tutankhamun Exhibition was designed and created to overcome this problem. All the exhibits recapture the originals.

We discovered a collection of unwrapped mummies, mummified sacred animals, death-masks and other treasures. The collection brought back happy memories for us of a family trip a few years ago to Egypt and a visit to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Terracotta Warriors Museum

Ancient China was next on our ancient civilisations’ itinerary. The terracotta warrior figures on display at the Terracotta Warriors Museum have been made as identical as possible to the originals, created for the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.

Fired in clay, they included a crossbowmen, a charioteer, an officer and a general dominated the exhibition space, standing up to two metres tall and weighing as much as 300kg.

George Baines and Shelley Daniels at The Teddy Bear Museum

Teddy Bear Museum

Dorchester's Teddy Bear Museum
Dorchester’s Teddy Bear Museum

There was a whimsical finale to our evening at Dorchester’s Teddy Bear Museum.

The Museum itself is set in the house of life-sized Edward Bear and his family and boasts a collection of teddy bears from throughout the last century. The earliest teddy bear on display is know as Michael and dates back to 1906, accompanying Rupert Bear, Winnie the Pooh and Paddington among others.

It was a bit late for a teddy bears’ picnic by this time, but we made good use of the special food and drink discount deals as local cafés, restaurants and pubs had got in on Museums at Night 2010.

The public verdict:

“It was brilliant for a Saturday night out with the family”

– The Wottons from Bournemouth (with their son Carlo, 11)

“Amber loves the Romans, so coming here this evening for Museums at Night is a perfect opportunity to find out more”

– Abbie and her daughter Amber (6) at the Dorset County Museum

“I’ve lived in Bournemouth for 15 years and had never been to Dorchester until now. The Dorset County Museum is beautiful”

– Amal Shibani (left), from Bournemouth, with her friend Mayling Tse (right) from London

“It’s been a great excuse to come out with the family and enjoy the local museums”

– Tony and Helen Harding with their children Robyn (8) and Ollie (4)

“Museums at Night appeals to all ages and we’ve been learning so much tonight”

– Dorchester family the Currys: Cristina, Joshua (14) and Sam (10)

A final word from Dorchester museums…

Event organiser Rachel Cole, from Dorset County Museum, worked with Colin Parr at the Keep Military Museum and Tim Batty from World Heritage to host Museums at Night in Dorchester, She called their night “a resounding success” and was also pleased by the team effort with local food outlets.

“This was a first for us and we’re very happy with the results,” she reflected.

“We’re going to get together again as a partnership, think about next year’s Museums at Night and how we can add even more to our visitors’ experience.”

“We’ve had hundreds of visitors through the doors tonight,” added Batty. “Figures have more than exceeded our expectations.

“We’re particularly pleased to have welcomed local families, who are a key target audience for us. They’ve been making good use of the deals at restaurants and cafés too, so it should be a good night for business in the town.”

“We’re confident we’re going to get repeat visitors after tonight who have now got a taste of our fabulous museums and will want to come back for more,” said Parr.

Let us know your thoughts…..

If you too enjoyed Museums at Night at the weekend let us know your comments and hopefully we can bring it back again next year.

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