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

Christmas and New Year
Opening Times

Friday 24 December
Early closing at 3.00pm

Saturday 25 December
Closed

Sunday 26 December
Closed

Monday 27 December
Closed

Tuesday 28 December
Open 10.00am – 16.00

Wednesday 29 December
to Friday 31 December
Open, 9.00am to 4.30pm

Saturday 1 January 2022
10.00am to 4.00pm


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.

https://www.dorsetmuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Good-to-Go-Logo.png

Plan your visit

Latest Vacancies

We have a vacancy at the Museum for a Learning and Community Outreach Coordinator

Exhibitions

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

The Colourful World of David McKee An exhibition from Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books. 13 October 2021 to 9 January 2022…

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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

20 January 2022

Tom Sharpe – Mary Anning, the fossil woman

20 January 2022, 7 pm Join Tom Sharpe, formerly Curator of Palaeontology and Archives at the National Museum of Wales, and author of ‘The…

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Talk

16 December 2021

Dr Clare Randall – ‘Anciently a manor’: the medieval manor at Lower Putton Lane, Chickerell

Excavations of the medieval manor at Lower Putton Lane, Chickerell 16 December 2021, 7 pm Join Dr Clare Randall to find out more about…

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Workshop

December

Christmas Crafts

Sunday Craft Activity Feel the festive spirit and join in our winter and Christmas themed crafts in December.

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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

November 9, 2021

Dorset’s newest and most exclusive wedding venue!

Dorset Museum is proud to have hosted its first wedding for locals Mike and Rachel, after recently being granted their wedding license 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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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

December 2, 2020

Conservators re-install Mosaic in Museum

Over a year after it was lifted to begin construction for the £16 million re-development of Dorset Museum, this 2nd-century Roman mosaic has been reinstalled in…

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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.