Damian Clarke plays Dulcimer and Hurdy Gurdy at Museum’s Lunchtime Concert

Damien Clarke playing the hammer dulcimer © Damien Clarke 2017

Damien Clarke playing the hammer dulcimer

On Thursday 16th February 2017 between 1.00pm to 2.00pm. Local touring musician, Damian Clarke will be playing Dulcimer and Hurdy Gurdy at the Dorset County Museum Lunchtime Concert

He has been performing since 1986, mainly with the international folk band “Pressgang” which he founded. He has toured in 12 countries and made several albums.

Damian, who is also an artist and lives in Dorchester, has appeared on television programmes including BBC’s period drama series ‘Wolf Hall’, playing his instruments from the past – the Hammer Dulcimer and Hurdy Gurdy which he has taught himself.  He is probably the only performer on these instruments in the UK who regularly plays concerts and sings with them.

He also has some great stories from his years on the road, playing in many interesting places. He plays a mix of folk songs from the British/Celtic tradition as well as some of his own contemporary songs.

The lunchtime concert is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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Far from the Madding Crowd at the Dorset County Museum

Far From Madding Crowd CostumesThe Writers Gallery at the Dorset County Museum is currently embellished by three striking costumes from the new film adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd, currently on loan from Fox Searchlight Pictures and Cosprop costumiers. These are outfits worn by Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba, the headstrong yet vulnerable heroine of the story, in the wedding scenes in the film. There is the smart dress and hat of the runaway wedding day, the gold striped silk dress and embroidered silk jacket of her homeward journey, and a dress worn at the wedding party. These costumes were designed by BAFTA Award winner and four times Academy Award nominated costume designer Janet Patterson (The Piano, Bright Star)

Bathsheba Everdene and Sgt. Frank Troy illustrated by Helen Allingham for 1874 The Cornhill Magazine serial of Thomas Hardy's Far From Madding Crowd

Bathsheba Everdene and Sgt. Frank Troy illustrated by Helen Allingham for 1874 The Cornhill Magazine serial of Thomas Hardy’s Far From Madding Crowd

On display too is a section of the novel written in Thomas Hardy’s own hand, illustrations from the original publication by Helen Allingham. Among much else to be seen is a first edition, and reproductions of scenes of rural Wessex by Henry Joseph Moule, Hardy’s friend and watercolourist, and the first curator of the Dorset County Museum.

Thomas Hardy would surely have welcomed the new film dramatization of one of his greatest novels. Adapted for the screen by novelist, David Nicholls, it is directed by the acclaimed Thomas Vinterberg. It is a powerful film, which reflects the essence of this great novel. The photography is stunning, giving a strong sense of place in the atmospheric shots of Dorset landscapes throughout the seasons. We see the inner turmoil of the characters in close up as the drama unfolds, and their outward reactions to the danger when the farm is under threat by fire or violent thunderstorm. This is a film full of action and drama.

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene in the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel Far From Madding Crowd

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene in the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From Madding Crowd – Fox Searchlight Pictures © 2015

Above all, Far from the Madding Crowd is a love story about the beautiful Bathsheba Everdene and the three men who desire her. A young woman of spirit and vitality, she has the courage to take on challenges presented by her romantic relationships, and in becoming a successful woman farmer. Carey Mulligan brings Bathsheba to life in a remarkably sensitive manner. We feel her strength and spirit, and her youthful disregard of danger and consequent vulnerability, which will resonate with modern audiences.

Far from the Madding Crowd was written when Hardy was 33, and was his fourth published novel. It first appeared in serial form in 1874 in The Cornhill magazine with illustrations by Helen Allingham. The novel became so popular that Hardy could afford to give up architecture, to marry Emma Lavinia, and to become a full-time writer.

Hardy’s acute sense of colours and beauty and detail make his writing easy to visualise. For instance, Gabriel’s first view of Bathsheba:

…It was a fine morning and the sun lighted up to a scarlet glow the crimson jacket she wore, and painted a soft lustre upon her bright face and dark hair.

Later, the season for sheep-shearing having finished:

It was the first day of June …Every green was young, every pore was open and every stalk was swollen with racing currents of juice. God was palpably present in the country and the devil had gone with the world to town.

Bathsheba’s meeting with Troy is vividly expressed as she sees him lit up by a lantern as ‘brilliant in brass and scarlet ’and

His sudden appearance was to darkness what the sound of a trumpet is to silence.

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene and Tom Sturridge as Sgt. Frank Troy in the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel Far From Madding Crowd - Fox Searchlight Pictures © 2015

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene and Tom Sturridge as Sgt. Frank Troy in the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From Madding Crowd – Fox Searchlight Pictures © 2015

This is a dramatic story, full of pivotal moments, changing fortunes and expectations. Bathsheba’s inheritance of her uncle’s farm provides her with great opportunities, whereas Gabriel’s loss of his sheep does the reverse. When Bathsheba sends a Valentine card, as a joke, to Boldwood it awakens a doom-laden obsession, whereas the chance encounter between Troy and Bathsheba sets them on the path of their passionate affair, with consequences beyond their own fate.

The setting is rural Wessex with its farms, villages and market towns and a way of life virtually unchanged for centuries, dependant on the livestock and crops grown by those who worked the land. People travel by foot, horseback, or horse-drawn vehicles, and are thus mostly rooted in their locality.

The lives of the main characters are played out against the backdrop of a close-knit community and the wider natural world. This local community includes workers, the farm owners and wealthier land owners, their lives interwoven as the drama unfolds. Even the dangerously attractive Sergeant Troy has his roots in the world of farming, as have Gabriel Oak and gentleman farmer, William Boldwood. In this tale happiness and sadness, comedy and tragedy, light and dark, and the sheer variety of moods, combine to make it compelling.

In the words of Virginia Woolf, talking about Hardy’s Wessex Novels:

Our imaginations have been stretched and heightened; our humour has been made to laugh out; we have drunk deep of the beauty of the earth.

The costumes from the film are currently on display at the Dorset County Museum and on display until 8th June 2015. For further information contact the Museum on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Active Faults & Ancient Places: Archaeoseismology in the Aegean by Prof. Iain Stewart

Professor Iain Stewart

Professor Iain Stewart

Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth, is giving a lecture at Thomas Hardye School, Dorchester, on 22nd April 2014. The subject of his talk is Active Faults and Ancient Places: Archaeoseismology in the Aegean.
Professor Stewart is a geologist, well known for presenting several BBC TV series including How Earth Made Us, Journeys From The Centre Of The Earth and Earth: The Power Of The Planet.

The lecture has been organised in partnership between Dorset County Museum and Thomas Hardye School as part of the Community Lecture series. All Community Lectures are well attended and entry is by ticket only – tickets will be available from the Thomas Hardye School office approximately two weeks before the lecture. To avoid confusion, tickets are not available from the Museum. For more ticket information click here

The lecture will take place in the Thomas Hardye School theatre and will commence at 7.00pm.

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

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A Century Ago

Poole High Street Project

It was November 1913, a year before the outbreak of a devastating war. The East Dorset Herald was reporting the ‘Death of Dr. Russel Wallace – The Grand Old Man of Science’ at his residence, Old Orchard, Broadstone. From an unpromising childhood with poor schooling and no scientific training to speak of, he rose to become ‘a stimulating and original thinker, a finely trained observer, a naturalist of world-wide reputation, a vigorous conversationalist, a notable explorer and great traveller’. ‘His supreme achievement was his discovery of the process of Natural Selection simultaneously with Darwin’. During his adventurous career he travelled in the Amazon (being shipwrecked on the return voyage) and later journeyed around the Malay Archipelago, observing and collecting specimens of the flora and fauna. It was here, while suffering from a bout of fever, that he conceived the theory of natural selection. Back in England, he wrote a…

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New Appeal Launched at Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum AppealLast week saw the launch of a brand new fundraising appeal at Dorset County Museum.

The new Development Appeal has been set up to raise money for a purpose-built facility in the centre of Dorchester to store the Museum’s extensive collections and provide working areas for volunteers and visiting researchers.  In addition, the project will include a bespoke education and lecture room for use by both schools and the local community.

Individuals wishing to support the scheme have the opportunity to buy a personalised plaque which will be placed in prime position on the Museum’s dramatic staircase.  They will also receive free entry to the Museum for a year and their name will be added to the development appeal donation register.  The cost of a plaque is £100.

Jon Murden (centre), Peter Down (second from front), Paul Atterbury (front) and Museum volunteers launch the fundraising project at Dorset County Museum

Jon Murden (centre), Peter Down (second from front), Paul Atterbury (front) and Museum volunteers launch the fundraising project at Dorset County Museum

The first plaque was bought by Museum advocate Paul Atterbury from the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.  Paul has recently become a trustee at the Museum and wanted to show his support for the project.  His plaque has been named in memory of his great uncle Lewis who died during the Battle of the Somme.

Museum director Jon Murden said, “We are hoping for a good response to this new appeal – the money raised will be used to kick-start the project and we will then be seeking financial support from major trusts and fundraising bodies like the Heritage Lottery Fund.“

Further fundraising events are planned for next year. Jon added, “We want to get local people involved because the project will include new galleries and archives which will be accessible to the public. Ultimately everyone will benefit because we will be able to display many more objects from our unique collections.“

Anyone wishing to support the campaign by buying a plaque should contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or see the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

Wallace: The Greatest Tropical Naturalist of the 19th Century by David Croman

Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace, O.M., L.L.D., D.C.L., F.R.S.

Dorset County Museum is pleased to present a talk on the subject of one of Charles Darwin’s major contemporaries.  The event forms part of the celebrations marking the centenary of the death of the great naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.

David Croman, former Head of Department at Salisbury College, Principal Examiner and teacher, will be speaking about the adventures, triumphs and failures of Wallace as an explorer, biologist, anthropologist and geographer and will reveal why he is now thought of as the greatest tropical naturalist of the nineteenth century.

The talk is free of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.  The event takes place on Friday 29th November. Doors open at 7.00pm and the talk will commence at 7.30pm.

For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

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Am feeling quite jolly!

Darkened not dormant

This lovely example of Alfred Russel Wallace’s beautiful handwriting and cheerful nature was written to chemist and Wallace’s good friend Raphael Meldola. He wrote it on his 90th (and sadly last) birthday. It is particular favourite of Annette Lord, who has scanned and transcribed the Museum’s collection of 300+ Wallace documents.

Today marks 100 years since Wallace’s death and provides a good opportunity to reflect on his achievements. We’ve set up a display in the Museum to mark the occasion and show some of the most impressive Wallace specimens in our collection. Wallace travelled to remote, dangerous parts of the world in search of new and fascinating species. He was a meticulous and careful collector; you can’t help but marvel at how the incredibly long antennae of these beetles survived the journey back to Britain!

Wallace is now credited by many as co-author of the theory of evolution through natural selection, so it is very exciting to…

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Wallace in his own words

Darkened not dormant

Here in the Museum of Natural History’s archives, we proudly house over 300 of Alfred Russel Wallace’s documents. Letters, notes and postcards written by the great naturalist himself. Here you can see Sir David Attenborough holding one of his favourites.

Over the past two years, all of the Wallace paper items in our collection have been scanned, transcribed and uploaded to Wallace Letters Online, a worldwide documentation project that’s part of the Wallace 100 celebrations. But the most remarkable thing is that all this work was done by one woman!

Annette Lord has been a volunteer at the Museum for 3 years and has helped with many family friendly activities, but one day she popped up to the Entomology Department to ask about Wallace’s letters. Her curiosity was piqued and she soon set to work on the enormous task of making them accessible to Wallace fans across the world.


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What’s on the van? – Wallace’s giant bee

Darkened not dormant


This Thursday, 7th November, marks 100 years since the death of the famous Victorian naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace was an intrepid explorer and prolific collector and is hugely important in our understanding of the natural world. He co-discovered evolution by natural selection with Charles Darwin and we are fortunate to have several hundred of his specimens and letters in our collections here at the Museum of Natural History. 

To celebrate the life of such an important scientific figure, we’re dedicating this week on the blog to all things Wallace. We’ll be sharing some hidden gems, little known facts about the great man and stories of Museum staff walking in the footsteps of Wallace.
So here begins Wallace Week, with a description of one of his fantastic specimens…


This week’s What’s on the van? comes from Sally-Ann Spence of Minibeast Mayhem and the Bug Club.

A single female bee stands…

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Kate Adie to talk about the legacy of women in World War One at the Dorset County Museum

Kate Adie © Ken Lennox

Kate Adie © Ken Lennox

Museum staff are looking forward to an exciting event on 8th November when former BBC Chief News Correspondent Kate Adie will give a talk at Dorset County Museum.

Kate Adie will speak on the subject of Dorset and the Home Front, World War I. The talk will be based on her new book about women in the First World War with specific reference to Dorset women such as Mabel Stobart.  Afterwards she will sign copies of her new book, Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One.

Fighting on the Home Front The Legacy of Women in World War One Kate AdieThis event forms part of the forthcoming centenary commemorations of the start of the First World War.  Next summer the Museum’s main exhibition is based upon the wartime experiences of a Dorset woman, Mabel Stobart.  Mrs Mabel St Clair Stobart, founder of the Women’s Sick and Wounded Convoy Corps (1912) and the Women’s National Service League (1914) was a supporter of women’s suffrage before the First World War. When the war broke out, she set up a field hospital in Belgium, risking capture by the advancing German forces. Subsequently, with a commissioned rank of major, she served on the Balkan Front where she commanded the Serbian Relief Fund’s Front Line Field Hospital. During the retreat of the Serbian Army in 1915, she and her team of female doctors and nurses accompanied them, providing continual medical support and relief.

“We are delighted to have Kate Adie coming to speak at the Museum,” said Museum Director Jon Murden. “Such a highly respected news correspondent will draw a good audience, and give us an opportunity to welcome people who might not normally come to events in Dorchester. We know she will be hugely popular and her talk will introduce the subject of next year’s summer exhibition, Mabel Stobart, a truly inspirational Dorset woman.“

The talk is free of charge but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.  As the event is likely to be very popular, seats will be allocated on a strictly first come first served basis. Everyone is welcome to stay behind afterwards if they wish to buy a signed copy of Kate Adie’s new book. Doors open at 7.00 pm and the talk will commence at 7.30pm.  For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

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