Welcome

Welcome to Dorset Museum, a place to connect with 250 million years of Dorset’s history.

We invite people from everywhere to discover and enjoy the richness of our county’s natural, historical and cultural heritage through our world-class collections.

We believe everybody will find something here to interest, fascinate or inspire them. We hope it will ignite you with an appreciation of our county and a desire to explore it.

Dorset Museum Sign

About the Museum

Dorset Museum is cared for by the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, an educational charity and custodians of four million objects in the Museum’s collection.


Contact Us

Because our phone lines can be very busy, we strongly recommend contacting us using the links below to the relevant enquiry.

Membership

 

Private Hire

 

Collections

We’re Good To Go

We have gained the Visit England ‘We’re Good To Go’ kitemark confirming we’re following national COVID 19 guidelines for managing visits to our site.

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Plan your visit

Exhibitions

Exhibition

2 December 2021 – 6 March 2022

My Creative Life: Talking Heads

2 December 2021 – 6 March 2022 The heads on display are the expression of a creative process facilitated by Janna Edwards and the Dorset…

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Talk

22 September 2022

Tom Sharpe – Mary Anning, the fossil woman

22 September 2022 Join Tom Sharpe, formerly Curator of Palaeontology and Archives at the National Museum of Wales, and author of ‘The Fossil Woman:…

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Talk

19 May 2022

Staging the world of Stonehenge

19 May 2022, 7 pm Shrouded in layers of speculation and folklore, Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most awe-inspiring ancient stone circle, and its image…

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Special Exhibitions

9 February to 1 May 2022

Scene through Wood

A Century of Modern Wood Engraving An exhibition organised by the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford 9 February to 1 May 2022 Scene Through Wood…

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Talk

28 April 2022

Reynolds Stone: Life and work

A lecture by his son Humphrey Stone 28 April 2022, 7 pm To coincide with the exhibition Scene through Wood: A century of Modern Wood…

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Workshop

23 April 2022

Playful spring printing for adults workshop

23 April 2022, 10 am to 12.30 pm Join artist Helen Garrett for a fun morning of experimental printing from clay using natural forms as…

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Exhibition

22 January – 27 March 2022

Quiet Revolutions

Work inspired by Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland 22 January – 27 March 2022 Quiet Revolutions, a display of ceramic pieces inspired by…

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Workshop

26 March 2022

Introduction to wood engraving

26 March 2022, 10am to 4pm This one-day workshop is perfect for beginners looking to learn a new technique. You will be taught the principles…

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Talk

24 March 2022

Striking Gold (and Garnet)

Peggy Piggott at Sutton Hoo in 1939 24 March 2022, 7 pm The Netflix film The Dig has brought the extraordinary Sutton Hoo ship burial…

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Galleries

Items From Our Collection

c.140 million years old (Purbeck Group)

The Swanage crocodile (Goniopholis kiplingi, holotype)       

This skull is from a substantial crocodile that dwelled in Purbeck’s Early Cretaceous lagoons. There it waited, motionless, to ambush unsuspecting animals. Fish, turtles and even baby dinosaurs were potential dinners. Peveril Point, southeast Dorset

Natural Dorset

c.1890

Katharine Hardy’s red dress      

Hardy’s younger sister Katharine (1856-1940) was a schoolteacher and had this dress made in Dorchester. With its luxurious red silk and bustle, it is reminiscent of the dress Tess wears in Tess of the d’Urbervilles when she runs away with her husband Angel Clare after murdering Alec d’Urberville.

Hardy’s Dorset

c.1695

The Bond family raised-work box   

Raised, or stump, work was a popular 17th-century embroidery technique. Its padded decoration often featured biblical motifs, plants and flowers, but the figures on this intricately crafted box are thought to depict Charles II (1630-1685) and his wife Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705). The box belonged to the Bond family at Creech Grange.

People’s Dorset

1850s

Bird skin collected by Alfred Russel Wallace

On Wallace’s trips to the Malaysian islands he collected over 8,000 bird specimens. Studying them helped him develop his theories on evolution

Natural Dorset

1923

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)     

Reginald Grenville Eves
Oil on canvas

Hardy’s Dorset

20th century

The Dorset Ooser

Every year Morris dancers use this replica Ooser for their May Day celebrations on a hillside near Cerne Abbas. The monstrous mask has its origins in ancient folklore. This terrifying creature stalked through Dorset towns and villages looking for food and drink from local people and frightening children.
On loan from John Byfleet

People’s Dorset

1873

Moule earth closet

Dorchester vicar Henry Moule (1801-1880) worked for better sanitation in the squalid slums of his Fordington parish. He invented this simple but effective composting toilet – a ‘portable commode for everyone’.

People’s Dorset

1950s

Cyril Day’s butterfly collection

These are just a small part of Cyril Douglas Day’s (1885-1968) collection of 2,652 insects, representing the wide diversity of species commonly found in Dorset in the mid-20th century.

Natural Dorset

c.900-1000 CE

The Wareham Sword

Made of silver, bronze and horn, this sword was found in the River Frome. The name engraved on it begins ‘Aethel…’, a name only associated with the aristocracy.

People’s Dorset

c.1935

Thatching at Grove House

Taken by M. H. Ouseley

Picture Library

c.1935

Thatching at Grove House

Taken by M. H. Ouseley

Picture Library

c.1935

Thatching at Grove House

Taken by M. H. Ouseley

Picture Library

c.1935

Thatching a rick a rick at Bredy Farm

Taken by M. H. Ouseley

Picture Library

1956

Milking time at Herrison Dairy

Taken L. Frisby

Picture Library

c.1935

Edgar Hawkins milking at Burton Bradstock

Taken by M.H. Ouseley

Picture Library

c.1960

Drink More Milk or from Producer to Consumer

Postcard

Picture Library

c.1920

Carey & Grimsdell butter factory, Dorchester

Picture Library

c.1935

Collecting milk from Manor Farm, Burton Bradstock

Taken by by M.H. Ouseley

Picture Library

News

January 13, 2022

Quiet Revolutions: Works inspired by Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland

Quiet Revolutions is an exhibition of ceramic pieces inspired by the lives of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland that will run from 22 January…

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News

January 12, 2022

The Urban Nature Project

Dorset Museum is working in partnership with Natural History Museum and others across the UK to start a new urban nature movement. Dorset Museum is…

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News

December 1, 2021

My Creative Life: Talking Heads

My Creative Life: Talking Heads, an exhibition of clay sculptures inspired by Elisabeth Frink, will open on 2nd December 2021 at Dorset Museum. The…

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News

November 22, 2021

Volunteer Awards 2021

‘Making a difference’ To show our appreciation for our volunteers we held an award ceremony on Friday 19th November. In celebrating and acknowledging the support…

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News

November 9, 2021

Dorset’s newest and most exclusive wedding venue!

Dorset Museum is proud to have hosted its first wedding for local residents Mike and Rachel. Having recently been granted a licence for Civil Marriages…

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News

November 2, 2021

Become part of Thomas Hardy’s story

Thomas Hardy was one of the greatest English writers of the Victorian era – here’s your chance to become part of his story. Wessex Museums…

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News

October 13, 2021

Elmer and Friends march into Dorset Museum for Trium-phant Exhibition

Elmer and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee, the first-ever major retrospective of David McKee’s striking illustration will be on display at Dorset Museum…

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News

September 13, 2021

Museum Director takes up new role!

Dr Jon Murden, Executive Director of Dorset Museum, will be leaving the Museum after 12 years to take on a new role as the chief…

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News

July 6, 2021

Dorset Museum shortlisted for national Family Friendly Museum Award

It’s been announced that Dorset Museum has been shortlisted for a Kids in Museums Family Friendly Award, 2021. The charity ‘Kids in Museums’ has…

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Membership

Become A Member Today!

Become a member of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society today and get a deeper insight into 250 million years of Dorset’s history, while you help protect its rich heritage for future generations.

TASTE Café

Open daily 9.00am - 4.30pm | Sunday 10.00am - 4.00pm
Cup on Café Table

Food and Drink

Visitors can enjoy and relax at the TASTE café at Dorset Museum without needing to pay for admission to the museum. We’ve also got free Wi-Fi available to our customers.

Shop

Dorset Museum Gifts

Gifts and Souvenirs

Remember your visit with a little something from our wonderful selection of pocket money goodies for all ages.

Venue Hire

Victorian-Hall-Wedding

The Victorian Hall

Are you looking for an iconic venue for your event? With its Gothic facade, spectacular Victorian Hall and stunning new galleries, Dorset Museum is a memorable choice.

Roman Town House

Roman Town House and Panel

The Roman Town House in Dorchester is the only example of a fully exposed Roman Town House in the country. It is free to visit and tours are offered by Dorset Museum.

Support Us

Donations Make The Difference

Every grant and donation helps us to do more for more people. Find out how you could make a difference.