Dorset County Museum awarded National Portfolio Organisation Status by the Arts Council

Dorset County Museum have been awarded National Portfolio Organisation status by Arts Council England. In doing so are set to share in a £1.2 million investment into the Museum of Dorset and Wiltshire.

Wessex Museums Partnership

The Wessex Museum Partnership, a consortium of four museums, led by the Poole Museum Service together with Dorset County Museum, Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum have been entrusted by the Arts Council to deliver their 2018-22 strategic plan entitled ‘Great Art and Culture for Everyone’.

The Arts Council has recognised 831 National Portfolio Organisations that meet and exceed its stringent standards of best practice, with 103 based in the South West region.

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: “We are delighted to be able to renew our funding to organisations in Dorset and are proud to be welcoming three new and diverse organisations who will significantly widen the reach across Dorset and beyond”.

Dorset County Museum Director, Jon Murden, exclaimed: “We are delighted by this vote of confidence in the Wessex Museums Partnership and the Dorset County Museum. We will be enhancing our outreach and community offer across the county, developing our special exhibition programme and improving the conservation and care of our collections with this investment.

“The Museum’s ambitious redevelopment plan is to create ‘Tomorrows Museum – Making Dorset Proud’ and today’s announcement is a recognition that this statement. Everyone involved with the Museum should be congratulated as they are part of this success”. Jon added.

This award comes soon after the National History Museum confirmed that Dorset County Museum will be the first stop on Dippy’s National Tour, an event that is already looking to be a sell-out success.

Dippy arrives at the Museum in Dorchester on 10 February 2018. Tickets will be limited and launched in August but you can register your interest by visiting www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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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Teapot from the Roof of the World by Duncan Walker

Tibetan Teapot © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum 2017

Tibetan Teapot © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum 2017

On Friday 28 April, starting at 7.30pm, come and join us for an interesting talk by the curator of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum on this amazing artefact.  This talk will cover the history of this amazing teapot and how it came to Bournemouth.  There will also be a brief exploration of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum – including some collection highlights that are on display.

Duncan has been at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum since 2007 and worked with an internationally significant collection which ranges from fine art to ethnographic material from across the globe. His current role involves everything from collections management and research to income generation and exhibitions. Duncan has been ‘in’ museums since 1993 and his previous museums include Portsmouth, Wakefield, Corinium, Nottingham, Devizes, Chippenham and Malmesbury.

Over the course of a year, five leading museums of the Wessex Museums Partnership Dorset County Museum, Poole Museum, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum will be sharing the story of Wessex in the wider world by showcasing an artefact from their own outstanding collections to the other partner museums.

Wessex has a rich history connecting the region to countries around the world. Our links to Europe and Asia date back to prehistory. An eventful maritime history connects our ports to North America and beyond. Local collectors brought back to Wessex exotic treasures from their journeys of discovery around the world. The story of Wessex is a truly global one.

Until 4 June 2017, the Tibetan Tea Pot will be on display at Dorset County Museum.  Come and listen to Duncan Walker’s talk and find out more about this beautiful and unusual artefact.

The forthcoming lecture will take place on Friday 28 April 2017 in the Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Hall and is FREE to the public; however a donation of £3 encouraged to cover costs. Doors open at 7.00pm and talks start at 7.30pm.

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


About the Wessex Spotlight Loan: Tibetan Teapot

This Tibetan teapot was given to our co-Founder Sir Merton Russell-Cotes (1835-1921) by the explorer Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Younghusband (1863-1942). In 1903-4 Younghusband led a controversial military expedition into Tibet. He became interested in Spiritualism, wrote extensively and became involved in the attempts to climb Mount Everest. World travellers themselves, Sir Merton and his wife Annie (1835-1920), collected items related to famous or infamous people, using them to attract visitors to their luxurious hotel, the Royal Bath and what is now the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum.

Dorset County Museum wins £10.3 million Heritage Lottery Funding

Cross-Section Artist Impression of Dorset County Museum Redevelopment Project - Carmody Groarke © 2015

Cross-Section Artist Impression of Dorset County Museum Redevelopment Project – Carmody Groarke © 2015

Dorset County Museum has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting new Collections Discovery Centre project, it was announced today. The main aims of the project are to provide a new state of the art learning centre, better archive and storage facilities and better public access to displays of the Museum’s vast collection.

This will be achieved through the sensitive yet contemporary redevelopment of the current building, which will transform Dorset County Museum’s facilities and double its visitor numbers. There will be new gallery spaces, an area for researchers to work and open workshop spaces so the public can see for themselves the fascinating inner workings of the museum. There will also be a new shop and tearoom, accessible from the street. The award of initial stage one funding of £483,900 will enable a detailed two year development plan to take place ahead of final submission to the HLF in May 2017. This would enable building work to start in 2017 and the Collections Discovery Centre to be opened to the public by 2020.

The Museum is housed in the centre of Dorchester in a beautiful high Victorian gothic building of architectural importance which will be carefully preserved during the works. The 1883 Crickmay Building which housed the Museum originally along with the stunning Victorian Hall will be conserved, and John White’s historic sixteenth century rectory will be sensitively restored.

More than 45,000 people visit the Museum every year, along with 5,000 local school children. It is anticipated that the new Collections Discovery Centre will become a focal point for locals and visitors to Dorset alike, attracting twice as many visitors in the years to come.

Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said “This is a brilliant and exciting opportunity for Dorset. For the first time we will have the space to do justice to our amazing collections, whilst ensuring they are safely preserved for future generations to enjoy. We would like to thank all of the organisations and individuals who have supported us with this bid. In particular we would like to thank, Arts Council England, Wessex Museums Partnership, Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council and Dorchester Town Council.”

Dr Peter Down, Chairman of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society continued “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has recognised the importance of the Dorset County Museum to the people of Dorset, and also recognises our commitment to learning with the new education centre. This very generous grant will allow us to increase the small number of staff, and give space to the many volunteers on which the museum relies heavily. As the County Museum, we can now look forward to working even more closely with our partner museums and other conservation Trusts within the whole of Dorset.”

The Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, Patron of the Dorset County Museum Development Appeal, added “This project will enable the Museum to bring world class exhibitions to the local area, and develop its role as a cultural and community hub for a range of events and activities. By 2020, while retaining and respecting its Victorian roots, the Museum will have been completely transformed into a modern, sustainable heritage service that serves twice as many visitors, making an even more significant contribution to the local economy.”

Explaining the importance of the HLF support Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West said “From the spectacular Weymouth Bay pliosaur to the largest Thomas Hardy collection in the world, the collections at Dorset County Museum provide an unrivalled picture of 185 million years of our area’s heritage. We’re thrilled to support these plans which will transform the museum, preserve their incredible collections and finally enable visitors to get a true insight into Dorset’s past. We look forward to seeing the plans develop.”

Cllr Peter Wharf, the Dorset County Council‘s representative on the museum’s board, said: “This is really excellent news for Dorset. The museum is a real asset for residents and visitors alike and the county council has worked closely with them to help bring in this significant injection of funds which will benefit so many people. I look forward to being involved in this exciting project to develop a first class facility.”

Robin Potter, Mayor of Dorchester says “On behalf of the Town Council and the people of the town can I express our absolute delight at the success of the Museum’s lottery bid. The project will not only allow the Museum to provide a fitting home for the storage, interpretation and research into Dorset’s fascinating history; it will also become the essential cornerstone that the town’s Tourism sector has been looking for to stimulate significantly increased interest in visiting Dorchester to explore the town’s rich cultural heritage, creating more jobs and a more diverse local economy. The Town Council is keen now to do its part in helping Dorset County Museum raise the remaining, but not inconsiderable, £3 Million needed to make the scheme a reality.”

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: ‘This is terrific news – we are delighted that Dorset County Museum has been successful in its application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. We’ve been supporting the museum to develop the skills and capacity they need to become more resilient and our investment has helped them plan a sustainable future with vision and confidence. Now we’re looking forward to working with staff and stakeholders as they deliver this exciting project.’

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