Archaeology Unearthed: Tears of the Sun: Bronze Age Amber Tracer Beads by Dr. Kate Verkooijen

Amber Bead Necklace

Amber Bead Necklace

In the early and mid-20th century, techniques such as radiocarbon dating did not exist or were still in their infancy. It was difficult, then, to date the various cultural groups in different regions of Europe to see whether they existed at the same time or flourished many centuries apart.

In light of this, the similarities between the amber spacer beads in Britain and Europe have been used for decades as evidence of direct links between the different European cultural groups during the Bronze Age. One of the main conclusions has been that there was a direct link between Early Bronze Age Wessex and Mycenaean Greece, due to the idea of nearly identical amber spacers found in both places.

Despite the prominent role they play in Bronze Age research, the evidence of the spacers both individually and within their original excavation contexts has always been poorly understood. For several decades the corpus was ill-defined and neither described nor presented consistently nor comprehensively. Dr. Kate Verkooijen’s research addresses this problem and, in the light of more recently excavated material and dating evidence, she re-assesses the previous conclusions about direct connections between regions. As well as presenting these results, she will also be bringing along two replicas of British Bronze Age amber spacer sets/’necklaces’.

Dr. Kate Verkooijen grew up in South Dorset and has lived in many places, including Australia. Twenty years ago, she returned to live in this area. Her early interest in archaeology was driven by curiosity about the many Bronze Age barrows on the Ridgeway. In the late 70s, she trained as a field archaeologist with Bill Putnam and worked at several sites across the county, including Culverwell and Hambledon Hill.

She has a BA in Archaeological Illustration (University of Bath/Swindon College of Art) and an MA in Experimental Archaeology (University of Exeter). Her PhD (also from Exeter) focused on the amber spacer beads from the Bronze Age across Europe. Currently, she is an independent archaeology researcher.

The forthcoming lecture will take place on Friday 3 March 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

Literary Lives: The Influence of Hardy on the Cornish poet Jack Clemo by Dr. Luke Thompson

Jack Clemo

Jack Clemo. Heather Spears/ Luke Thompson © 2016

Jack Clemo (1916-94) was one of the most unusual poets of the twentieth century, a deaf-blind, syphilitic, self-proclaimed sex mystic who placed his God within the scarred landscape of the china clay mining country in Cornwall. 

But Clemo began his writing life as a novelist, intending his work to be ‘the Christian counterpart’ of Thomas Hardy’s.  Hardy’s influence on Clemo’s debut novel, Wilding Graft, is unmistakable, and it is an influence to which Clemo would return throughout his writing.

On Thursday 3rd November 2016 at 7.30pm (The Museum doors open at 7.00pm).         Dr Luke Thompson will explore Thomas Hardy’s role in Clemo’s life and work, in the poetic and novelistic influences, and in the role of fate and faith, reading from poems such as ‘Wessex and Lyonesse’ ‘Tryphena’ and ‘Max Gate’

Dr Luke Thompson is a writer, editor and academic from Cornwall, who has written the first full-length biography of the poet Jack Clemo, entitled Clay Phoenix (Ally Press, 2016).

The talk is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

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

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Festival of Archaeology at the Dorset County Museum

Festival of ArchaeologyThe Festival of Archaeology, coordinated yearly by the Council for British Archaeology, showcases the very best of British archaeology by presenting special events hosted by museums, heritage organisations, universities, societies and community archaeologists all over the UK.

As our contribution to this year’s festival, Dorset County Museum will host a variety of events including Viking re-enactments and a rare opportunity to tour the Museum’s archaeology store.  “This is a fantastic opportunity for people to see a whole range of artefacts that aren’t normally on display,“ said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum.  “In the past these tours completely sold out as so many people were interested in coming along – we hope it will be even more popular this year.“

Viking at the Dorset County Museum

Vikings will be invading the museum during the festival

Visitors to the museum can also see the newly refurbished Ancient Dorset gallery which tells the fascinating story of the past of the ancient peoples living in this county, from the Lower Palaeolithic Age 3 million years ago to 1066AD. With a brand new display of the recently discovered mass Viking burial discovered on the Ridgeway outside Weymouth.

Events at the Museum:

  • Tuesday 19 and 26th July – Tour of the archaeology store in All Saint’s Church, High East Street, Dorchester.  See behind the scenes and experience some of the millions of objects we don’t have space to normally display. Tours will commence from the Museum at: 10.30am, 12noon, 1.30pm and 3.30pm. Places limited, booking is essential. Normal admission prices apply.
  • Wedneday 20 July – Archaeology Day will be held at the Museum with activities throughout the day, including displays, hands on archaeology and meet the experts, mini-talks and the finds ID surgery. Bring in objects you have found – coins, buckles, pottery, anything! Ciorstaidh Hayward Trevarthen, Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme will be able to explain what they are. The Finds ID Surgery is at 10.30am and 2pm, and you will need to book. All other activities will happen through the day and you can just drop in. Normal admission prices apply.
  • Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 July – History is being brought to life as the Vikings invade Dorset County Museum! Come and meet the Vikings from 11am until 4pm. Witness hand to hand   combat, visit craftspeople to find out how chain mail and fishing nets were made, watch Norse cooking demonstrations, mint a Viking coin and listen to exciting Viking sagas full of adventure. Normal admission prices apply.
  • Wednesday 27 July – Roman Dorchester a rare chance to visit inside one of the best-preserved Roman Town Houses in Britain and see the beautiful mosaic floors at close range. Tours will commence from the Dorset County Museum at: 11am, 12noon, 1.30pm and 3.30pm. Places limited, booking is essential. Normal admission prices apply.
Dorchester Roman Town House

Dorchester Roman Town House

  • Saturday 30 July Family Archaeology Day will be held at the Museum with activities throughout the day suitable for younger visitors. Hands on activities and trails, and meet some archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology and Context One Archaeological Services.  Find out about bones and how archaeologists use new technology with displays and mini-talks for the family.  Normal admission prices apply.

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

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Literary Lives: Emma Lavinia: The First Mrs Hardy with Helen Gibson and Marilyn Leah

Emma Hardy

Emma Hardy from the Dorset County Museum’s Hardy Collection © DCM

Drawing upon the writings and art work of Emma Hardy, Marilyn Leah and Helen Gibson will outline her early life in Plymouth and Cornwall, her romantic meeting and courtship with Thomas Hardy.

Hardy wrote: ‘She opened the door of the West to me ‘, and their romance began when Emma opened the door of St Juliot Rectory to the young architect who had arrived to work on the dilapidated church.  Both made sketches and began writing, using Cornwall as the settings of their novels.  Emma’s novella ‘The Maid on the Shore’ has never been published and extracts will be shared in this presentation.  Their honeymoon and travels in Europe are documented in Emma’s diaries, illustrated with thumb-nail sketches.

This illustrated talk will share the paintings and sketches by Emma Hardy, which are held in the Hardy Archive at the Dorset County Museum.

The lecture will take place on Thursday 26 May 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 for a 7.30pm start.

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

An Evening with the Curator Speed to the West: A Railway Journey in Art

‘Speed to the West:  A Nostalgic Journey’ by Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness

‘Speed to the West: A Nostalgic Journey’ by Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness

This Thursday, 24th March at 7.00pm at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester, Richard Furness will talk about the development of the humble railway poster, and give a tour of the West Country using a series of stunning railway posters to coincide with the Museum’s extensive poster exhibition which runs until January 2017.

The talk will cover the historical development of railway posters over 130 years from the early Victorian lithographs through to modern digital images.  It will be based on the five south-western counties of Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, which will be used to illustrate the enormous change in styles before we tour the region with some of the finest pieces of commercial art ever produced in the UK.

The talk is a stunningly visual introduction to the extensive poster exhibition being hosted by Dorset County Museum, which the BBC Antiques Roadshow expert Paul Atterbury and the Speaker have jointly curated.

Available to buy on the evening at £9.99 will be the brand new book ‘Speed to the West:  A Nostalgic Journey’ by Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness.

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

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Museum launches a new exhibition of stunning railway advertising posters of the 20th Century

Nothing is more evocative of the golden age of travel than the railway poster, and Dorset County Museum is thrilled to be staging an exhibition featuring over 50 famous examples that opens on 19th March. These beautiful works of art were created between 1916 and the 1970s with one aim in mind: to encourage holiday makers to escape the humdrum of every day life and travel by train to the resorts, towns, countryside and special places of Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

A truly classic railyway poster advertising the trip to come: GWR poster from 1938 by Charles H. J. Mayo

A truly classic railyway poster advertising the trip to come: GWR poster from 1938 by Charles H. J. Mayo

The posters conjure up a bygone age of steam engines and old fashioned bathing suits, sunny beaches and the gentle clinking of boats in harbours. There are stunning and iconic landscapes too, immediately recognisable, painted in wonderful colours and promising days out filled with sunshine and relaxation. Town and city views are populated with elegant people, a streamlined locomotive heads a Pullman train – these images bring together the excitement, spectacle and nostalgia of the age.

On display alongside the wide range of posters are some 21st century items that use classic poster design principles, locomotive nameplates, old station totem signs and diverse railway publicity materials and ephemera celebrating the great holiday routes in the West of England. Together they will, without doubt, provoke many nostalgic travel memories.

Speed to the West has been curated by Antiques Roadshow expert and writer Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness, collector, writer and publisher of the Poster to Poster series that have become the definitive books on the subject, supported by the staff of Dorset County Museum.

Paul Atterbury said “During the interwar years the ‘Big Four’ railway companies found that art sold tickets, and between them commissioned an astonishing range of posters from the leading artists and designers of the day. This tradition was maintained, even expanded, in the 1950s and 1960s by the newly nationalised British Railways, whose legacy is a second golden age of posters. This is a wonderful collection that is well worth coming to see, and I’m very pleased to be involved with this exhibition.”

Richard Furness said “Dorset is a beautiful county whose coastline is the subject for some wonderful artwork. Having been studying, collecting and writing about railway art for many years, I am delighted to be playing a part in bringing this unique collection to Dorchester. This exhibition brings together posters spanning a century, and is rounded off with the latest GWR poster which demonstrates that the slogan ‘Speed to the West’ is still actively in use today. Visitors should have a lot to see and reminisce over. Do come and see us!”

Dr Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said “I’m really excited about this exhibition. The posters and railway memorabilia we’re exhibiting are within living memory for many people, forming a direct link to the past. Added to that, the posters are, of course, things of beauty in their own right and it’s great that they will be here in Dorset for people to see all year.”

A book, illustrating in colour the posters in the exhibition plus others that enrich the story, will be on sale throughout the exhibition priced at £9.95.

  • The exhibition ‘Speed to the West’ A Nostalgic Journey opens at Dorset County Museum on Saturday 19th March 2016 to Saturday 7th January 2017

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

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St Ives and British Modernism: The George and Ann Dannatt Collection Exhibition extended to 23rd January 2016

Denis Mitchell, Selena, 1969, Pallant House Gallery, The George and Ann Dannatt Gift (2011)

Denis Mitchell, Selena, 1969, Pallant House Gallery, The George and Ann Dannatt Gift (2011) PHG © 2015

Dorset County Museum is pleased to confirm that the current exhibition St Ives and British Modernism: The George and Ann Dannatt Collection has been extended and will run until Saturday 23rd January 2016.

Director of Dorset County Museum, Dr Jon Murden commented “This has already proved to be a very popular exhibition, and I’m really pleased that it will be staying in Dorset for three extra weeks, giving locals and visitors alike the chance to come and see it.”

Ancient Landscape by George Dannatt - Dorset County Museum © 2015

Ancient Landscape by George Dannatt – Dorset County Museum © 2015

Marking the centenary of George Dannatt’s birth in 1915, the exhibition explores one of Dorset’s most significant art collections – that assembled by George and Ann Dannatt.
The collection includes a largely unseen and newly conserved group of paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints by key figures associated with the St Ives Group of Artists in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, including Terry Frost, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, Ben Nicholson, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and John Tunnard.

The collection is one of the most significant private collections of its type, not least because Dannatt was a friend of many of the artists, and was himself an abstract artist. A selection of his own works will be included in the display, as well as archival photographs of the Dannatts with their artist friends and rare artists’ books and illustrated volumes. In addition to the St Ives Group, the collection includes works by artists associated with a poetic strain of Neo-Romanticism in Britain, including Paul Nash, David Jones, Prunella Clough and Keith Vaughan, as well as interesting prints by international artists such as Jean Arp and Eduardo Chillida.

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

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The Place of St Ives by Brandon Taylor, Professor Emeritus of History of Art, University of Southampton

Ancient Landscape by George Dannatt - Dorset County Museum © 2015

Ancient Landscape by George Dannatt – Dorset County Museum © 2015

On Thursday 10th December at 7.30pm, Dorset County Museum invites you to come to an interesting and informative talk about British modern art which complements the current temporary exhibition at Dorset County Museum, St Ives and British Modernism: The George and Ann Dannatt Collection.

The talk will consider the character of ‘The St Ives School’ of painters and sculptors during the 1940s and 1950s, the nature of their links to the coastal environment, and the relation of their work to transatlantic and European tendencies of the day.

Professor Taylor is currently a visiting Tutor in History and Theory of Art at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. His latest publications are After Constructivism (Yale University Press 2014) and St Ives and British Modernism (Pallant House Gallery Chichester 2015).

This talk is on Thursday 10th December 2015, Dorset County Museum, 7.30pm
(doors open at 7.00pm) and is open to everyone and is FREE of charge, although we do encourage a donation of £3 to cover costs.

For further information and other forthcoming events contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Family Activity: Anglo-Saxon Art

Anglo-Saxon-ArtOn Wednesday 28th October at the Dorset County Museum children are being invited to come along and discover for themselves how the Anglo-Saxons produced their art and what inspired their creativity. There will be an opportunity for children to make and take home their own piece of Anglo-Saxon artwork.

This activity takes place between 10.30am – 12.30pm. There’s no need to book as this activity is FREE thanks to generous sponsorship from Battens Solicitors. Up to two accompanied children aged 4 -12 will be admitted per adult.

For further information about this event contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Spend a Night in the Museum with the Vikings

Viking Sleepover at Dorset County MuseumYes, it’s Halloween, but if you fancy doing something a little bit different on Saturday 31st October with your kids, come and join us for an activity packed night to remember in Dorset County Museum.

There are a whole host of activities planned for the night around a central theme, ‘The Vikings’, to coincide with the opening of our new Ancient Dorset Gallery in early November (this will be open for viewing on the night).

Viking at the Dorset County MuseumNot only will you be able to see real Viking skeletons over 1,000 years old, but Re-enactment Group Hrafnslith will be telling interactive stories of Viking adventure and derring-do, and giving weaponry demonstrations. On top of this, you can help professional artist Darrell Wakelam to build a huge Viking long-boat, and make your own long-boat model to take home with you. Then after hot chocolate and biscuits, nestle down for a night’s sleep before a complimentary light breakfast the following morning in the Museum’s beautiful Victorian Hall. We will be showing the film ‘How to Train your Dragon’ in the morning to end this Viking sleepover. A very popular event in previous years, this really will be a night to remember!

The Sleepover is on Saturday 31st October 2015 6.00pm, until 9.30am the next morning. Tickets are limited to 100, and are on sale now from the Museum shop on High West Street, Dorchester or by telephone on 01305 756827. This event is for children aged 7 – 13, with a maximum of 2 children per adult (who must stay overnight with the children). Ticket prices: children £15, adults £12 to include evening refreshments and light breakfast.

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