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

October 13, 2021

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 from 13 October 2021.

For the first time ever, families from across the region will be able to step into David McKee’s colourful world in this characteristically playful exhibition from Seven Stories – The National Centre for Children’s Books exhibition as it celebrates over 30 years of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

Engaging with children and families was at the centre of Dorset Museum’s recent redevelopment and this exhibition provides further exciting opportunities for visitor engagement and family fun. It follows the Museum’s shortlisting for the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award, 2021.

The first stop will be Elmer’s world, where visitors will be greeted by a giant Elmer jigsaw and enjoy the ultimate Instagram moment. The adventure continues as guests walk through Elmer’s jungle, encountering characters and stories along the way.

As well as illustrations from the Elmer series there will be original artwork from Not Now Bernard, Mr Benn and King Rollo as well as the opportunity to dress up in fancy dress from the costume shop featured in Mr Benn and a reading area.

Visitors will be able to explore David McKee’s vibrant illustrations in great depth through the use of many multi-sensory elements including colour, texture and sound plus visualise McKee’s use of perspective through an interactive mirrored walkway.

A dedicated area of the exhibition has been co-produced with Seven Stories’ Young Producers highlighting its organisational commitment to working collaboratively with children and young people.

Elmer remains one of the most widely read children’s book series of all time, selling over ten million copies worldwide since it was first published by Andersen Press in 1989. Written and illustrated by celebrated children’s author and artist David McKee, the Elmer books have been translated into more than 50 languages and now new books, toys and clothing add to the world of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

In the first book of the iconic series, Elmer discovers that when he tries to change his appearance in order to ‘blend in’ with the other elephants, they no longer recognise him, or accept him. This makes Elmer sad, and he experiences how it feels to be treated as an outcast, after being ostracised by his old friends. It’s only when it begins to rain, and the grey paint that Elmer has covered himself with starts to disappear, that Elmer’s ‘true colours’ are revealed, much to the surprise and delight of his friends, who preferred his multicoloured and fun-loving self.

Jon Murden, Executive Director of Dorset Museum said: “We are very excited that Elmer and Friends are coming to Dorset Museum. Making families welcome and giving them an excellent experience is at the heart of our aims. We are looking forward to seeing visitors interacting and exploring the colourful world of Elmer created by David McKee”.

Gillian Rennie, Head of Exhibitions at Seven Stories, said: “We can’t wait to invite families to explore this vibrant new exhibition in Dorset Museum. This is the first time that some of David’s striking artwork has been on display and we know that families, schools and fans of children’s literature are going to be blown away by the whole exhibition”.

David McKee, author of Elmer said: “Elmer is really about accepting who you are, about celebrating difference. We are all different to a greater or lesser degree. We are all different, with so many differences, differences of colour, of accents, but also of size, shape and how we dress. The differences are what make the world so rich. It’s strange because we humans seem to like differences in other things – in dogs and trees and flowers, but we don’t accept it in people. If people aren’t like us, we don’t accept them. Elmer tried to be like the other elephants but in the end, he has to be himself. I look forward to seeing the faces of all the children and families when they step into the exhibition”.

Families and Elmer fans can enjoy the exhibition at Dorset Museum, 13 October 2021 – 9 January 2022.

Elmer and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee



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…

Find out more


October and November

Colourful Creatures

Sunday Craft Activity Create some colourful critters inspired by the Elmer and Friends exhibition to take home. Sunday, 3 October 2021 Sunday, 10 October 2021…

Find out more


14 November 2021

Magnificent Model Elmer workshop

14 November 2021 10.30am – 3.30pm Artist-led event with Darrell Wakelam Join artist Darrell Wakelam for some exciting 3D cutting and sticking activities based on…

Find out more

Online Exhibition


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…

Find out more


28 May – 24 November 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…

Find out more


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…

Find out more


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…

Find out more



Christmas Crafts

Sunday Craft Activity Feel the festive spirit and join in our winter and Christmas themed crafts in December. Sunday, 5 December 2021 Sunday, 12 December…

Find out more


26 and 27 October 2021

Patterned Pals

26 and 27 October 2021, 10am to 11.30am | 12.30pm to 2pm | 2.30pm to 4pm. Artist-led event with Chesil Creatives Join artist Ellie Newbury,…

Find out more