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

UNESCO recognition for Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy by Hubert Herkomer

Thomas Hardy by Hubert Herkomer

The Thomas Hardy Archive and Collection has recently been awarded inscription on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) ‘Memory of the World’ Register of Documentary Heritage. Awarded.

This prestigious status alongside such collections as the Churchill Archive and the Domesday Book, UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme works to celebrate and preserve documentary heritage and to improve awareness of the information that these collections contain. David Dawson, who is Chairman of the UK Memory of the World Committee, said the significance of Hardy’s works and the picture he was able to capture of his time and place meant the archive was fully deserving of its place on the register:

“It really is that picture of the late 19th Century and the way that life was changing. Hardy was talking primarily about Dorset but he also captured the spirit of change coming across Britain and had such an impact on literary works both nationally and internationally. It is for that reason it was such a privilege to be able to inscribe these archives on the UNESCO register.”

UNESCO The Thomas Hardy Archive and Collection

Helen Gibson and Jon Murden receiving the UNESCO Memory of the World inscription certificate from David Dawson, Chairman of the UK UNESCO Committee, at a special ceremony in Tamworth on Tuesday 9th July.

Recent donations to the Hardy Collection include two paintings, one by Hardy’s sister Mary, which is a portrait of their brother, Henry, and a small watercolour of ‘Egdon Heath’ by Emma Hardy. These have been generously given by relatives of the Hardy family. Professor Barrie Bullen, whose book launch was in the museum, has donated a copy of Thomas Hardy: the World of his Novels. We are grateful for these important additions to the collection. A talk about Tess of the d’Urbervilles and a detailed tour of the Hardy Gallery was requested for forty members of NADFAS who visited the museum from Romsey. Jennifer Young conducted the tours and Helen Gibson showed The Graphic of 1891 illustrated serialisation and other related items, including first editions and early stage dramatisations. Research continues to be undertaken by visiting scholars on subjects as diverse as natural history, music and dramatisations, cataloguing schemes of Hardy’s books, and the annotations and marginalia in his own hand.

Helen Gibson

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Opening of new Photographic Archive at Dorset County Museum

Came House by Charles Cornish Browne © DCM

Came House by Charles Cornish Browne © DCM

A generous legacy has enabled Dorset County Museum to rebuild its Photographic Archive and to ensure its long-term future as a unique resource for Dorset. The sum of £100,000 was donated in 2011 by William Butcher, a former farm hand at Shipton Gorge Farm.

During the Second World War, Bill ran the farm – a reserved occupation – and patrolled Chesil Beach as part of his Home Guard duties, often up all night then going straight out at 5.00am to milk the cows by hand!  He and his wife Sylvia had a life-long interest in archaeology stemming from the discovery of prehistoric artefacts on the farm he worked.  They were both avid collectors and had amazing collections of boxes, tins, and old cider bottles.

Looking down High East Street with all the decorations for the visit of the Prince of Wales to the bath and West Show in 1887. © DCM

Looking down High East Street with all the decorations for the visit of the Prince of Wales to the bath and West Show in 1887. © DCM

Bill Butcher’s £100,000 legacy was used to completely rebuild the photographic archive, previously at risk from rain and flood damage, providing improved user facilities and a state-of-the-art storage capacity so that the collection can be both safeguarded and enlarged.  Dorset County Museum has almost 50,000 photographic prints, slides and negatives dating back to the mid-19th Century – images showing what life was like in Dorset parishes in times gone by, with an extensive biographic collection telling the story of Dorset people.

The new Dorset Photographic Archive is being officially opened on 14th June alongside the brand new “Bill Butcher Common Room” for use by volunteers and staff. For access to the Photographic Collection, contact Valerie Dicker on 01305 262735.

Dorset County Museum has many other projects for which donations would be most welcome.  If you are considering making or changing a will, giving to charity is easy and straightforward, and can pass on some excellent tax advantages as all legacies left to charities are free of inheritance tax.

By including Dorset County Museum in your will, you are helping to preserve its many collections and protect them for future generations. No matter how small your gift, your contribution will make a difference.  You may leave a donation to be used for general purposes, or, like Bill, you can specify a particular purpose for your legacy.