Launch of Hardy Country

Hardy CountryThursday 6th June 2013 sees the official launch of a major new project promoting the world of Thomas Hardy.  “Hardy Country” is a brand new initiative from a group made up of Dorset County Museum, The National Trust, Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Thomas Hardy Society, and Dorset County Council. They have been working together to make Hardy Country into an internationally recognised, high quality visitor destination.

The first stage in the delivery of this vision is to provide a firm link between the two Hardy properties (Hardy’s birthplace and Max Gate), Dorset County Museum (which houses the famous ‘Hardy Collection’) and Clouds Hill, former retreat of T. E. Lawrence.  All are locations strongly associated with Hardy, his life and his novels and poetry and they come together here for the first time to make a co-ordinated visitor “offer”.

Accessed by a joint ticket costing just £20 (a saving of £6 on visiting all the locations separately), the project will inspire intellectual, emotional and physical engagement with the Dorset landscape and its cultural heritage.  For the first time, Thomas Hardy will be properly placed within the landscape and historic built environment that surrounded him during his life. Tickets will be on sale at all four locations plus the Dorchester Tourist Information Centre from 6th June.  More information is available from the website at www.hardycountry.org.

Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said, “If Hardy Country works well, we will look to develop the offer further by introducing walking and cycling trails, information about  the properties and surrounding areas, and  possibly shuttle buses or cycle hire between all the locations to help bring Hardy’s world alive to our visitors.”

There will also be an extensive educational programme to identify themes within Hardy’s work which are relevant today and make Hardy and his fellow writers more accessible to all age groups.

Sue Mitchell, Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership and Chair of the Hardy Country Group said, “Thomas Hardy is a key part of our Dorset culture, he is all around us wherever we are in the county.  We are so lucky to be able to go out into Hardy’s countryside, and still see many of the things which inspired and deeply influenced his writings.”

In a further boost to the project, Dorset County Museum have recently been advised  that their Thomas Hardy Collection has become part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World – a catalogue of documentary heritage of global significance including the Magna Carta and the Mappa Mundi.

Hardy Country will be launched at approximately 7.00pm on Thursday 6th June following the launch of a new book on Hardy by J. B. Bullen, and before a talk by Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah about Hardy’s first wife, Emma, which starts at 7.30pm. Entry is FREE and everyone is welcome.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Lecture: Bird Migration and the Campaign to stop Illegal Hunting by Andrew Morgan

Avocet, Malta

Avocet, Malta – Birdlife

BirdLife Malta is a society for the protection of birds and natural habitats in Malta. The organisation monitors activity that threatens wild birds, such as illegal hunting and trapping and urban development in conservation areas on the Maltese islands.

This year BirdLife Malta celebrates the 50th anniversary of its campaigning, research and conservation work. Founded in January 1962 it is the oldest environmental organisation in Malta.

Malta lies on one of three routes used by birds on their biannual migration between Europe and Africa.  There are over 12,000 licensed hunters on the Maltese islands and many will illegally shoot protected birds as there is a large bounty on the rare species.

To help Birdlife Malta stop this tragic waste, Andrew Morgan is giving this lecture, entitled Bird Migration and the Campaign to stop

, to raise funds and awareness for the campaign which he has been supporting since 2008.

The lecture takes place at 7.30pm on Wednesday 26th June and doors are open from 7.00pm.  The lecture is FREE but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Lunchtime Poetry and Music: Thomas Hardy’s ‘Emma Poems’ read by Furse Swann and Sue Theobald

Emma Hardy

Emma Hardy from the Dorset County Museum’s Hardy Collection © DCM

On Thursday 13th June between 1.00pm and 2.00pm Furse Swann and Sue Theobald present a Celebration of Hardy’s love poems.

One of the treasured manuscripts to be found at Dorset County Museum is that of Satires of Circumstance, Thomas Hardy’s fourth book of verse.  At its centre are ‘The Poems of 1912-13’, a collection of poems about his first wife, Emma, who died in November 1912.

Overcome with remorse and an upwelling of love for the young Emma he had first met in Cornwall in 1870, Hardy wrote these elegiac poems – almost certainly the closest to his heart.

To celebrate the centenary of the writing of ‘Poems of 1912-13’, Furse Swann and Sue Theobald read the twenty-one poems that make up the sequence, with the performance of some of the tunes from the Hardy music books, played on fiddles by Lorraine Tillbrook and Elspeth Gracie.

‘O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea,
And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free –
The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.’

Entry to the poetry reading is FREE but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book.  This event will start promptly at 1.00pm.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Lecture: Taxidermy – Past and Present by Jonathan McGowan

Dorset Naturalist and Taxidermist, Jonathan McGowan

Dorset Naturalist and Taxidermist, Jonathan McGowan

Taxidermy is a skilful traditional craft. It dates not just from the days before the camera and guide book were invented, but is still a highly sought-after profession even today. These skills are needed by naturalists, museum curators, teachers, photographers and interior designers to name but a few. Whilst taxidermy may sometimes be associated with ‘arty’ types, many traditional taxidermists still continue the craft in the most old fashioned of ways.

The art is all about removing the skins of animals, preserving them and recreating a life-like model and mounting it in a natural-looking setting. Taxidermy need not be just about hunting trophies – it is also about safeguarding the memories of loved family pets, or the recycling of dead animals that litter our roadsides from time to time and indeed much vital information can be gained from collecting road kill and passing it on to relevant conservation authorities.

A mounted wild polecat.

A mounted wild polecat.

Jonathan McGowan’s illustrated  talk touches on the history of the craft from the past to the present day, with insights into how it is carried out, the ups and downs (including the perks and horrors) of the trade, and strange oddities of nature.

The lecture takes place at Dorset County Museum at 7.30 on Wednesday 29 May and doors are open from 7pm.  The event is free but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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ANIMATE! Two Centuries Of Animation From Pencil To Pixel 13th July – 19th October 2013

Shaun the Sheep © Aardman Studios

Shaun the Sheep © Aardman Studios

For summer 2013 Dorset County Museum is mounting a major exhibition called Animate! which will cover the chronology and development of the art and technology of animation and its cultural impact.

Dorset County Museum is working in partnership with The Bill Douglas Centre at University of Exeter, Bournemouth University National Centre for Computer Animation, the British Film Institute and Aardman, as well as and the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation. We are also delighted to have been able to work with Animated Exeter – the South West’s most exciting animation festival, inspiring the animators of the future.

The exhibition will look at the progression of animation from the early Victorian parlour toys, zoetropes, magic lanterns and flip books, through the work of Eadweard Muybridge, on into the golden age of animation in the early 20th century. Displays, installations and objects cover the rise of Walt Disney and the groundbreaking work of Halas and Bachelor, as well as the transition from silent to sound and from cinema to TV. An interactive exhibition suitable for all the family, Animate! will trace the use of animation in commercials, propaganda, pop videos and youth culture and the innovations of CGI, Pixar and recent computer games.

Alongside the Animate! exhibition there will also be an exciting programme of events including talks by Aardman animator Loyd Price. A full range of family activities will also be on offer, including a special half-day model-making workshop on 1st August with expert plasticine artists from the Aardman studios. To find out more about this fascinating series of activities see our events listings.

Dorset County Museum would like to thank the following sponsors for their generous support of the Animate! exhibition:

Museum Volunteer awarded British Empire Medal

Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Mrs Valerie Pitt-Rivers with Mrs Gwen Yarker.

Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Mrs Valerie Pitt-Rivers with Mrs Gwen Yarker © DCM

On Tuesday 21 May 2013, Mrs Gwen Yarker, Dorset County Museum Honorary Curator was presented with a British Empire Medal by the Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset, Mrs Valerie Pitt-Rivers.

Gwen received her award in the 2013 New Year Honours List as a result of her voluntary services to Museums. Many friends, staff

and other volunteers came to the presentation to show their support and thank Gwen for her unique contribution to the work of the Museum over two decades.

For over twenty years Gwen Yarker has served as the Honorary Curator of Fine Art at Dorset County Museum and as a trustee of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society. She has been instrumental in fundraising to support the development of the Museum, in building links with other fine art organisations, in growing, training and leading a group of collections management volunteers, and in researching, documenting and displaying the history of the county’s artists and paintings.

In this regard Mrs Yarker’s work to raise £350,000 to acquire three portraits by George Romney detailing Thomas Rackett, one of Dorset’s earliest antiquarians and collector of one of the Museum’s foundation collections, is particularly noteworthy. So too is her singlehanded contribution to the research, coordination, writing, fundraising and management of the production of the Public Catalogue Foundation’s volume on the oil paintings of Dorset.

– Dorset County Museum Exhibition of 2011: Georgian Faces – Portrait of a County

However, perhaps Mrs Yarker’s finest achievement to date was her curatorship of the exhibition Georgian Faces: Portrait of a County held at Dorset County Museum in 2011 and authorship of an accompanying catalogue. The result of over four years work, undertaken on a completely voluntary basis, this critically acclaimed exhibition which ran for four months in early 2011, contained over 70 portraits from both national and private collections, including many never seen in public previously. It resulted in significant long-term improvements to the security and facilities of the Museum, dramatically raised its profile and standing, and attracted a large audience – helping grow the museum’s income in otherwise difficult economic circumstances.

Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum has praised Mrs Yarker’s work at the Museum, “She is an invaluable and unique resource to the Museum – we would never have acquired the Romney portraits without her, and she continues to provide help, advice and support at the highest level.”  Whilst Mrs Yarker wished to keep the presentation of the award low-key, she is keen to use the event as an opportunity to publicise the Museum and the work of all the other volunteers who generously give so much of their time and expertise to the Museum’s ongoing work.

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Book Launch: Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels by JB Bullen

Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels by JB Bullen

Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels by JB Bullen

Hardy Book Launch at Dorset County Museum 6th June 2013 at 6.00pm

Thomas Hardy’s Wessex is one of the great literary evocations of place, populated with colourful and dramatic characters.  As lovers of his novels and poetry know, this ‘partly real, partly dream-country’ was firmly rooted in the Dorset into which he had been born.

JB Bullen explores the relationship between reality and the dream, identifying the places and the settings for Hardy’s writing, and showing how and why he shaped them to serve the needs of his characters and plots. The locations may be natural or man-made, but they are rarely fantastic or imaginary. A few have been destroyed and some moved from their original site, but all of them actually existed, and we can still trace most of them on the ground today.

Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels opens new and original perspectives for both those who already know his brilliant stories, and those who come to them for the first time.
JB Bullen holds the Chair of English Literature and Culture in the department of English Literature, Royal Holloway, University of London. He is also Professor Emeritus of the University of Reading where he lectured on English Literature and Art History for over twenty-five years. In 2010 he delivered the plenary lecture at the last international Hardy biennale. He is the author of many books and articles and lives in Oxford.

The book included chapters on Far from the Madding Crown, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Hardy’s poems.

Entry to the book launch is free.  It is followed at 7.30pm by an illustrated talk by Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah entitled ‘Emma: West of Wessex Girl’ on the life of the first Mrs Thomas Hardy.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Event: Emma: West of Wessex Girl An illustrated talk by Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah

Emma Hardy

Emma Hardy from the Dorset County Museum’s Hardy Collection © DCM

On Thursday 6th June Helen Gibson, honorary curator at Dorset County Museum, and Marilyn Leah, former custodian of Max Gate, Hardy’s Dorchester home, discuss the life and work of Emma Gifford – first wife of Thomas Hardy.  This is a celebration of the life of a remarkable woman in words and images with reminiscences of her early life, her meeting with Thomas Hardy, the story of their courtship and their life together.

Emma Lavinia Gifford was the first Mrs Thomas Hardy.  Diarist, Suffragette and Campaigner, Emma’s own words describe her beliefs and convictions, and her artistic accomplishment is seen in images of her watercolours and sketches from the extensive Hardy Collection at Dorset County Museum.

Emma and Thomas married in 1874, and after eleven years of living in and around London, settled in Dorset at Max Gate, Dorchester, for the rest of their lives. European holidays, visits to friends, and extensive entertaining at Max Gate, all added variety to their life there together.

Come and find out what Emma thought about her husband and others in her life, her thwarted ambition, independence of spirit, and the recollections of those who knew her.

Just before the talk on 6th June, between 6.00pm and 7.00pm, there will be the launch of a new book by JB Bullen: Thomas Hardy – The World of His Novels which explores the settings of Hardy’s novels and shows how he shaped them to serve the needs of his characters and plots.

Entry to the book launch and to the talk is free but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book.

A second Hardy event, a reading of ‘Hardy’s Love Poems’ by Furse Swann and Sue Theobald takes place at 1.00pm on 13th June.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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