Spotlight Exhibition: MIX: artwork by Maddy Down , Helen Francis and Peter Runeckles

End of Summer by Maddy Down

‘End of Summer’ painting by Maddy Down

From 4th February 2017 to 25th March 2017, The Dorset County Museum will host an temporary exhibition showing the work of three local artists.  They all have a long association with the Museum through their voluntary work in various departments. 

Maddy Down, Helen Francis and Peter Runeckles work in a wide variety of styles and media including oils, watercolour, pastels, textiles and enamels.  They have arrived at this point on their creative journeys by very different routes.

Maddy Down‘s interest in painting was prompted by gaining a degree in Art History at Winchester in 2001.  She was brought up in the Yorkshire Dales but has lived in Dorset for 45 years. The Dorset coast, cliffs and landscapes are her inspiration.  She conveys what she feels rather than a purely literal response.

Helen Francis trained at Loughborough College of Art gaining a BA (Hons) in Textiles specialising in embroidery.  After graduating she worked at the Hampton Court Palace and the Victoria and Albert Museum as a textile conservator.  An interest in historic needlework and costume continues through her work as a volunteer at the Museum.

Influenced by her garden, flowers and everyday objects Helen makes still life pictures using fabric, paint and thread.  Layers of dyed silk are used to create depth and intensity of colour.  Mark making with hand and free machine embroidery are added to accentuate the design.

Peter Runeckles has been painting since his school days when he was taught by R B Talbot Kelly the wildlife artist.  Since then he has worked independently producing paintings and sculptures.  He also joined a print making group at Bournemouth Art College.  Peter’s works in this show include paintings in oil and acrylic, Humbrol enamels, water colours, etchings and screen prints.   Peter has exhibited previously in Poole, Bournemouth and Dorchester.

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

Dorset County Museum celebrates its volunteers in National Volunteer Week

Volunteers-Week-LogoThis week is National Volunteer Week, and Dorset County Museum wants to recognise the generosity of its 200 volunteers who collectively give thousands of hours of their time to the Museum each year. Volunteers are involved in a wide range of activities at the Museum, from documenting, curating and conserving collections to staging exhibitions, working in the Museum Shop and helping with lectures, events and fundraising.

Museum Tea Room VolunteersJill Minchin, Volunteer Co-ordinator and herself a volunteer at the Museum explained: “The Museum simply could not care for its collections adequately or put on such a wide range of exhibitions and activities without the help of its volunteers. The Museum’s archaeology, geology, textiles, art, literary and photographic collections are all looked after by volunteer curators, and a team of volunteers also run the Museum’s library, where many important antiquarian volumes are housed.”

Museum-Volunteers-ArchaeologyJon Murden, Director added, “Volunteers are absolutely crucial to every aspect of the running of the Museum. We could not function without the enormous amount of work put in each and every day by our team of highly motivated and highly skilled volunteers. We can’t thank them enough for the essential work they do.”

Dorset County Museum has been awarded £10.3million of Heritage Lottery funding for a new Collections Development Centre. Part of this money will be used to improve the working environment for volunteers.

The Museum is always looking for volunteers for lots of different roles, so if you would be interested in getting involved please get in touch by phone on 01305 756826, or email

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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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