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.

  • Opening hours:

    Daily: 9.00am - 4.30pm
    Sunday: 10.00am - 4.00pm
    Bank Holidays: 10.00am - 4.00pm

  • Admissions:

    Annual Pass or Day Entry available

    Book now
  • Dorset Museum

    High West Street
    Dorchester DT1 1XA

    View Map


Contact Us

Because our phone lines can be very busy, we strongly recommend contacting us using the links 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

Online Exhibition

Online

Wildlife in the Red

Online Exhibition: Wildlife in the Red The Wessex Museums partnership is pitching in against biodiversity loss. ‘Wildlife in the Red’ is the title of their…

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Exhibition

13 October 2021 - 9 January 2022

Elmer and Friends

Elmer and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee 13 October 2021 to 9 January 2022 An exhibition from Seven Stories: The National Centre for…

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Exhibition

28 May – 24 October 2021

A Museum in the Making

Dorchester artist Peter Runeckles was given unique access to the Museum construction site between 2018 and 2020. Working alongside the team from Acheson Construction, a…

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Theatre

FULLY BOOKED

The New Hardy Player’s The Mayor of Casterbridge

6 October 2021, 7 pm [FULLY BOOKED] The New Hardy Players bring their most ambitious production to date, combining live performance, film, and archive photography. …

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Black History Month

11 October 2021

Who was the Waddon Man?

11 October 2021, 2 pm For almost 400 years the skull of an unknown person was kept at Waddon Manor. Local folklore said that an…

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Talk

21 October 2021

Tracy Chevalier: The Importance of Place

21 October 2021, 7 pm Tracy Chevalier’s bestselling historical novels are set in various parts of the world: Holland, Ohio, California, southern France,…

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Dorset Museum Music Society

27 October 2021

Antonina Suhanova, Pianist

27 October 2021, 7.30 pm After her early training in Latvia, Antonina moved to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London where she…

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Dorset Museum Music Society

17 November 2021

Barbican Quartet

17 November 2021, 7.30 pm Acclaimed for their “gusto, comradeship and sharp attack” (The Times), the Barbican Quartet was formed at the Guildhall School…

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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

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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News

June 10, 2021

Open evening for schools

It gives us great pleasure to invite school staff to our hugely transformed Dorset Museum on Thursday 15th July between 17.30 – 19.30 for FREE.

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News

May 28, 2021

Dorset Museum is OPEN!

The long-awaited opening of the Dorset Museum is here, after the £16.4 million redevelopment that started in October 2018. We are open!! Dr Jon Murden…

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News

January 28, 2021

Roman Mosaic Saved for the Nation!

A Roman mosaic of international importance has been saved for the Nation! Dorset Museum has been successful in its appeal to raise £150,000 to save…

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News

October 12, 2020

Lifeline Grant

Dorset Museum is one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving urgently needed support. £257 million of investment has been announced…

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News

October 6, 2020

Wildlife in the Red

The Wessex Museums partnership is pitching in against biodiversity loss. ‘Wildlife in the Red’ is the title of their virtual exhibition. The strapline is ‘Once…

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News

October 1, 2020

A Museum in the Making

This month we celebrated 175 years when the concept of building a museum to house all of the treasures of Dorset’s rich history was conceived…

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News

August 12, 2020

‘Topping Out’ Milestone

Lord Fellowes of West Stafford joins the staff of Dorset Museum as they celebrate the completion of structural work with Dorset-based construction company Acheson. Despite…

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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 Dippy on Tour Reception

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.