Museum Makers: A Few Crusted Characters

Just before the summer break the Museum Makers moved forward in time to the early nineteenth century, and looked at horse-drawn transport, as a precursor to our forthcoming work on the railways. We used the concept and structure of Thomas Hardys

A Few Crusted Characters, which tells the story of a group of homeward- bound travellers in a carriers cart who are joined on the journey by a stranger. The interwoven tales that the locals tell to the newcomer make up the scenes in the play.

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Museum Makers: The Vikings are Coming!

Museum Makers: Working on Scene 1 of The Vikings are Coming!


A Viking Longhouse somewhere in Scandinavia. It’s the middle of winter, and provisions are running very low. The Chief is struggling to keep his people’s spirits up, and the snow gets ever deeper.

The Frost hardens, and YMIR, the frost giant, enters the Longhouse and freezes all the inhabitants. Even the chief eventually succumbs to his icy touch. Then ODIN and FREYA, accompanied by the young dragon FIREDANCER, enter the Longhouse. FIREDANCER and FREYA chase out YMIR with heat and warmth, and the chief and all his people are thawed by the dragon’s breath.

The chief and his wife thank ODIN and FREYA, and in the true spirit of VIKING hospitality, offer food and shelter. Unfortunately there is very little food, and the only thing to do is to get the chief’s wife to prepare yet another batch of STONE SOUP!

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Sharing Heritage: Museum Makers Group celebrates £6,000 Heritage Lottery Fund Grant


The Museum Makers rehearsing for their latest performance ‘The Vikings are Coming!’ at the Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Sharing Heritage grant, it was announced today.  The grant will fund an exciting Museum Makers project which will provide educational and inspirational opportunities for adults with learning disabilities as they engage with the collections at the Museum.  

The project will work with local disability groups, carers, specialist artists and performers on a wide range of creative activities inspired by the Museum’s desire to share the stories of Dorset’s heritage with vulnerable adults in the community.  Weekly creative sessions will include activities such as acting, music, craft making and shadow puppetry which will result in the group producing and performing a play and a film for friends, family and the wider community to enjoy, all inspired by the Museum’s collections.

The initial focus for the group will be recently acquired archaeology collections including the Viking skeletons discovered on the South Dorset Ridgeway, which the Museum Makers will use to explore the Viking connection with Dorset, performing a play based on their discoveries.

The latter half of the project will see the group explore themes relating to the Museum’s current exhibition of railway posters of the twentieth century, Speed to the West:  a Nostalgic Journey.  From this they will produce a film on the coming of the railway to Dorchester, connections with Dorset’s literary heritage and the founding of the Museum itself in response to the threat posed by the construction of the new railways to Dorset’s archaeological heritage and natural history.

Commenting on the award, Andy Worth, Museum Makers Volunteer, said “We’re thrilled to have been awarded this grant and we can’t wait to get started on the project. The Museum Makers group will feel a stronger sense of belonging to their community through engaging with Dorset’s past, and at the same time they will be developing their own self-confidence through learning new skills, performing and film-making.  We’re also delighted by the support we’ve had from Dorset County Museum, and can’t emphasise enough how crucial this interim grant is to the Museum Makers. ”  

Dr Peter Down, Chairman of Dorset County Museum added “This will be a really fantastic project, and staff and volunteers here at the Museum will give our whole hearted support to the Museum Makers in any way that we can.”

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TV Historian Dan Snow visits Dorset County Museum for his latest TV Series

Dan Snow with Dr. Louise Loe -  Andy Worth/Dorset County Museum © 2015

Dan Snow with Dr. Louise Loe – Andy Worth/Dorset County Museum © 2015

On Wednesday the 19th August 2015, TV Historian, Dan Snow came to the Dorset County Museum to film his latest BBC TV series exploring the age of the Vikings.
This programme will feature the discovery of a mass grave of skeletons in 2009 on Ridgeway Hill during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road in Dorset. Around 50 skeletons, predominantly of young Scandinavian adult males, were found in an old quarry pit. All had been decapitated. Their heads had been placed in a pile located at one edge of the grave.

Dr. Louise Loe, Head of Heritage Burial Services at Oxford Archaeology discussed with Dan the evidence in identifying these individuals, their origins and even their state of health.
The remains of these Ridgeway Vikings and other important archaeology treasures will be on permanent display in the museum’s newly refurbished Ancient Dorset Gallery. The refurbishment of this gallery has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership Scheme, Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council and Alice Ellen Cooper-Dean Charitable Foundation.

The Ancient Dorset gallery at Dorset County Museum will become the visitor centre for the South Dorset Ridgeway. Ultimately it will link in with information panels to be displayed along the ridgeway itself helping visitors explore this area which is rich in heritage. This landscape is considered by many to be as important as Stonehenge and Avebury for revealing the lives of our ancestors. The ridge of high land, running parallel with the coast between Weymouth and Dorchester has been an important place for people for over five thousand years. It has over 1,000 monuments that record the history of the Ridgeway since that time.

Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum said “The archaeology of Dorset is the history of over 400,000 years of human habitation in the county – our collections are nationally significant and cover the entire period from Palaeolithic times to Saxon and Viking Dorset, so it will be especially exciting for the Museum to be featured in this programme which will be screened later this year.”

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Tripadvisor “Certificate Of Excellence 2015” awarded to Museum

Volunteer, Nicole Englehardt and Front of House Manager, Alison Goff with the Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor

Volunteer, Nicole Englehardt and Front of House Manager, Alison Goff with the Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor

Recognised as a top performing Museum as reviewed by travellers on the World’s largest travel site, Dorset County Museum is thrilled to announce that it has received a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award for the third year in a row.

Now in its fifth year, the award celebrates excellence in tourist attractions and is given only to establishments that consistently achieve great reviews on TripAdvisor. Certificate of Excellence winners include attractions located all over the world that have continually delivered a superior customer experience.

When selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor uses a proprietary algorithm that takes into account the quality, quantity and recency of reviews and opinions submitted by travellers on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period, as well as each attraction’s tenure and ranking on the Popularity Index on the site. To qualify, an attraction must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.

“Winning the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence is a true source of pride for the entire team at Dorset County Museum, and we’d like to thank all of our past guests who took the time to complete a review on TripAdvisor,” said Dr Jon Murden, Director of the Dorset County Museum. “There is no greater seal of approval than being recognised by your customers. With the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence based on customer reviews, the accolade is a remarkable vote of confidence in the Museum and our continued commitment to excellence.”

“TripAdvisor is pleased to honour exceptional hospitality businesses that have received consistent praise and recognition by travellers on the site,” said Marc Charron President, TripAdvisor for Business. “By putting a spotlight on hospitality businesses that are focused on delivering great service to customers, TripAdvisor not only helps drive increasing hospitality standards around the world, it also gives businesses both large and small the ability to shine and stand out from the competition.”

Nash Ensemble Evening Concert at the Dorset County Museum

The Nash Ensemble, © Hanya Chlala/ArenaPAL

The Nash Ensemble, © Hanya Chlala/ArenaPAL

The celebrated Nash Ensemble, resident chamber ensemble at the Wigmore Hall, London are playing at Dorset County Museum for one night only on Friday 19th June at 7.30pm.

The programme consists of:

  • Mozart Oboe Quartet in F K 370
  • Stravinsky Three Pieces for String Quartet
  • Michael Berkeley Oboe Quintet ‘Into the Ravine’
  • Ravel String Quartet

The musicians are Gareth Hulse (oboe), Laura Samuel (violin), Annabelle Meare (violin), James Boyd (viola), Adrian Brendel (cello).

Sunlit Ravine by John Craxton 1982-5

Sunlit Ravine by John Craxton 1982-5

One of the pieces being played on the night, Oboe Quintet ‘Into the Ravine’, was influenced by paintings, including one given to the composer Michael Berkeley’s father in 1962 by local artist John Craxton, to whom the concert is dedicated.

Michael Berkeley and his parents Lennox and Freda Berkeley were close friends of the Craxton family for many years. In 1962 John Craxton commissioned Lennox Berkeley to write an oboe sonata for his sister Janet Craxton the oboeist. In return he gave Lennox a painting of a Greek Ravine, which later was to be the inspiration for ‘Into the Ravine’.

In 2012 after the death of John Craxton, Michael Berkeley wrote ‘Into the Ravine’ in memory of the artist.

‘Into the Ravine’ is a melancholy piece beginning with the oboe intoning three plaintive notes around which the strings gradually entwine. The final bars seem to imitate a solitary bird making a final lonely call before taking to the wing and disappearing into the clouds.

John Craxton, Hydra, Greece, 1960 - Wolfgang Suschitzky

John Craxton, Hydra, Greece, 1960 – Wolfgang Suschitzky

John Craxton’s work, including the paintings that inspired Michael Berkeley, is on display until 19th September in a temporary exhibition at the Museum, ‘A Poetic Eye: John Craxton on Cranborne Chase and Crete’. Doors will open early at 7.00pm on the night to enable a viewing of this intriguing exhibition before the concert begins.

There will be a raffle sponsored by Goldcrest Jewellers and refreshments on the night with all proceeds going to the Collections Development Centre fund at Dorset County Museum. The Museum has been successful in its bid to win £10.3 million of Heritage Lottery Funding but needs to find a further £3 million in match funding.

Tickets can be bought from Dorset County Museum’s shop or by phone on 01305 756827 and cost £30 each.

About the Nash Ensemble

Chamber Ensemble in Residence at Wigmore Hall, the Nash Ensemble is regarded as a standard-bearer of British music-making around the world and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. To mark this achievement its founding artistic director, Amelia Freedman, devised a series at Wigmore Hall consisting of repertoire performed to great acclaim including some of the 193 commissions which it has premiered over the past half century.

Recent highlights include concerts in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the USA, including a residency at Princeton University. Recent releases include a CD of Hollywood composers for Hyperion, connected to the Ensemble’s highly praised 2013/14 American series at Wigmore Hall; Harrison Birtwistle’s The Moth Requiem for Signum Classics; and a recording of John Tavener’s Russian Folk Songs for NMC. The Ensemble has received two Royal Philharmonic awards “for the breadth of its taste and immaculate performance.”

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Archaeology Gallery at Dorset County Museum being redeveloped in spring 2015

Dorset County Museum Archaeology GalleryThe Archaeology Gallery at Dorset County Museum is currently being redeveloped as part of a £250,000 project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership (AONB).

Upon its completion in autumn 2015 the new gallery will become the visitor centre for the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership. Ultimately it will link in with information panels to be displayed along the ridgeway itself helping visitors explore the AONB and understand the sites that can be seen there today.

“This is a very special project for us,” said Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum. “The archaeology of Dorset is the history of over 10,000 years of human habitation in the county – our collections are nationally significant and cover the entire period from paleolithic times to Saxon and Viking Dorset.”

When the new Ancient Dorset Gallery (the new name for the former Archaeology Gallery) opens at the Museum, the centrepiece will be a special display of the Viking skeletons found during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road in 2009.

Jadeite Axe

Jadeite Axe © DCM

During the initial work (December to March 2014) the existing gallery will be open but artefacts from some display cases will be removed for conservation. Other key objects will be redisplayed in the museum during this time.

The design of the new gallery will ensure that when work starts on the Museum’s planned Collection Discovery Centre, the improved displays will be moved into the new extension at minimum cost.

While the work is being undertaken, visitors will be able to enjoy a special spotlight loan from the British Museum of three jadeite axes and some mace heads from their own collection. Dorset County Museum’s own jadeite axe will be displayed alongside these loans.

For further information visit Dorset County Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10.00am to 4.00pm.

Dorset County Museum Thanksgiving Party is Great Success

Dorchester Thanksgiving Party Cake

The beautiful Dorchester Thanksgiving Party Cake created and kindly donated by Angel Cake Company

Friday 14th November saw an enthusiastic crowd at Dorset County Museum celebrating Thanksgiving with new friends in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The fundraising event brought together people from both sides of the Atlantic in a joint venture to raise money for Dorset County Museum’s new Collections Discovery Centre. A total of just over £1400 was raised on the night which will go directly towards funding the project

Staff and trustees of Dorset County Museum would like to express their thanks to the following people who made the event such a success: Lord and Lady Fellowes of West Stafford; Peter Mann, Mayor of Dorchester; David Taylor, Museum Fundraising Team Leader; Jan Cosgrove, David Cuckson, Jane Squirrell, Volunteers of the Museum’s Fundraising team; Mark North, Andy Worth, Ian Condon, Jenny Devitt, Film and Media Technicians;  John Fiori from the Horse with the Red Umbrella and Nicci Campbell of the Angel Cake Company for the food and the cake, plus Dorchester Town Crier Alistair Chisholm and members of the New Hardy Players.

Dorchester Thanksgiving Party

Crowds gather in the museum for the Dorchester Thanksgiving Party

During the evening, the two Dorchesters were directly connected by a live video link. Julian Fellowes talked with the Rt Reverend Richard Kellaway and the Rev Arthur Lovoie from the First Parish Church in Dorchester Massachusetts, assisted by  who had been helping to coordinate the event on the American side. A major element in the joint heritage of the two towns is the rectory of the Reverend John White. A listed building, it was here that events took place that played a key role in the founding of the United States of America. Regeneration of this site, in the centre of Dorchester’s urban conservation area, will help promote understanding of Dorset’s international story and provide a definite link for the many tens of thousands of people around the world who can trace their family heritage back to Dorset.

Lord Julian Fellowes

Lord Julian Fellowes of West Stafford

The Museum’s Collections Discovery Centre project has been developed to provide new galleries, learning resources, collections storage facilities and a renewed public face for the Museum. The new centre will enable the museum to showcase its collections, spanning over 185 million years. It will build a safe conservation environment and sustainable future for the heritage the collections represent. This will enable more people to learn about history and prehistory using the Museum’s collections, and create additional collecting capacity for

 Julian Fellowes speaks to First Parish Dorchester - Rev. Arthur R. Lavoie, Phil Lindsay and Rev. Richard Kellaway — with Julian Fellowes at Dorset County Museum.

Lord Julian Fellowes speaks to First Parish Dorchester – Rev. Arthur R. Lavoie, Phil Lindsay and Rev. Richard Kellaway

Dorset’s strategically important collections such as the archaeology of the South Dorset Ridgeway and the geology of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

In addition, new galleries will encourage more people to visit and experience the collections including groups which do not currently use the Museum and visitors will be able to see, for the first time, objects in reserve collections which are not normally on display. The scheme will also help to improve the cultural tourism offer for Dorset, and support the regional economy. The Museum is in the heart of a rural county, in the centre of the county town, and in an area that attracts visitors from across the UK. In this location, with the right investment, the new centre will provide wonderful access to the region’s heritage and become an essential part of the experience of visiting Dorset.

Further fundraising events are currently being planned to support the project – for more information visit or telephone the Museum on 01305 262735.

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TripAdvisor® ‘Certificate of Excellence’ for Dorset Museum

Dorset County Museum awarded 'Certificate of Excellence' Recognised as a Top Performing Attraction as Reviewed by Visitors on the World’s Largest Travel Site

Dorset County Museum awarded ‘Certificate of Excellence’ Recognised as a Top Performing Attraction as Reviewed by Visitors on the World’s Largest Travel Site

Dorset County Museum in Dorchester, Dorset, is delighted to announce that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award – for the second year running. This prestigious award, which honours hospitality excellence, is given only to the top-performing 10% of establishments – those which consistently achieve outstanding traveller reviews on TripAdvisor, Establishments awarded the Certificate of Excellence are located all over the world and represent the upper echelon of businesses listed on the website.

Certificate of Excellence winners are selected using reviews ratings from its visitors – qualifying organisations must maintain an overall TripAdvisor rating of at least four out of five. Other factors include the volume and recency of reviews, the length of time a property has been listed, and a property’s popularity ranking.

“We are very grateful to our visitors for the positive reviews and high ratings they give us on TripAdvisor” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “We are always working hard to improve the museum and one of the best ways to do this is to pay close attention to the independent feedback we receive from our visitors.”

Dorset County MuseumThe Museum is currently enjoying an increase in visitor numbers – in 2013 nearly 50,000 people visited the Museum including local residents, holidaymakers, researchers, educational groups and people coming to the many family activities, lectures and music events. The Dorset museum is also moving ahead with a major development project which will transform public access to its collections. Architects Carmody Groarke are assisting with an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund which will be made by the end of the year.

Fundraising activities continue to support the work required in advance of the application. For further information see