Museum planning application for new extension and development approved

New Museum Entrance concept design -Carmody Groarke © 2015

New Museum Entrance concept design -Carmody Groarke © 2015

The planned extension and redevelopment plans for Dorchester’s County Museum have finally been given the green light by West Dorset District Council.

The plans, which call for the transformation of the museum’s facilities, include a new learning centre, library, café and shop and most importantly additional gallery space.

Hidden behind the museum’s 19th century façade lie almost 4 million artefacts, charting the natural, archaeological, cultural and social history of Dorset. Regrettably, many of these hidden gems have remained just that, hidden from view and unable to tell their story…until now!

With £13 million of the £15 million target already pledged, these hidden gems will once again see the light of day, helping to illustrate, educate and inform us of our unique history.

‘We are absolutely delighted that the relevant authorities have recognised the importance and significance of the project to the local community and to the county. We can now look forward to realising our ambition to provide Dorset with the appropriate facilities in which to properly conserve, display and make accessible, our wonderful collection.’ says Dr Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County museum.

Online donations to the appeal can be made via www.tomorrowsmuseumfordorset.org

Gold coins circa 70-50BC found in Tarrant Valley - DCM © 2017

Gold coins circa 70-50BC found in Tarrant Valley – DCM © 2017

In recognition of the Museum’s unique collections and its role in furthering the knowledge of palaeontology the museum will be welcoming its largest and oldest visitor in February 2018. Dippy, the famous diplodocus skeleton replica from the National History Museum is embarking on national tour with Dorchester being his first stop.

When he was roaming the Earth, Dippy measured almost 30m in length and weighed an incredible 15 tonnes, once installed in the museum’s magnificent Victorian gallery there will be just inches to spare.

Dr Jon Murden, is understandably overjoyed at the prospect of Dippy coming to town.

“Dippy’s visit is a once in generation opportunity and as such we’re expecting a huge demand for tickets” says Jon. The museum’s online ticket reservation service will be launched very soon but visitors are advised to register their advance interest by visiting www.dorsetcountymuseum.org and visiting the Dippy page.

Working in partnership with the Jurassic Coast Trust, visitors to the museum will receive expert guided tours and experience real life time travel by visiting the Jurassic Coast and travelling back 155 million years.

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Come and Smile at a Crocodile….

The Swanage Crocodile - Goniopholis kiplingi

The Swanage Crocodile – Goniopholis kiplingi

A 140 million year old crocodile found on the Jurassic Coast is going on display at Dorset County Museum.

The 60cm long skull dates from the Cretaceous Period of geological time, around 140 million years ago. It was found in 2007 near Swanage by Richard Edmonds, Earth Science Manager for the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site team. Richard said, “It was a really lucky find. A part of my job is to monitor the condition of the rocks and fossils along the World Heritage Site but you don’t expect to find something this spectacular without spending a lot more time on the coast. I have collected fossils for thirty years but this is a once in a lifetime find.”

The ‘Swanage Snapper’ fossil has recently been studied at Bristol University and has been found to be a new species. The full name is Goniopholis kiplingi in homage to British author and nature enthusiast Rudyard Kipling whose crocodile characters feature in stories such as the Just So Stories tales. He would have enjoyed the idea of this prehistoric creature waiting just under the surface of a warm freshwater lagoon to ambush unsuspecting prey. Dinosaurs emerging from lush tropical foliage to take a drink would have been gripped by powerful jaws and rolled beneath the water until drowned or crushed to death.

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

However, this crocodile did not have everything its own way – on top of the skull are bite marks from another crocodile, possibly even larger, which bit down with such force that the conical marks of its teeth are still visible today. The crocodile skull is very well preserved, having been buried quite rapidly by lagoon sediment, although its teeth rotted out before this took place. It was slightly flattened by the sediment’s weight before it hardened into rock and is surrounded by fossil shellfish, along with a turtle shell plate and a poo (thankfully fossilised too). Curators at Dorset County Museum are grateful to Jurassic Coast Trust for funding the project and Mowlam Metalcraft for providing the mount for the new display.

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