Hardy’s Wessex Exhibition opens on Dorset Museum’s one year anniversary.

May 27, 2022

Dorset Museum’s new exhibition, Hardy’s Wessex: The Landscapes that Inspired a Writer, opened last night at a VIP and Members preview evening.

The exhibition opens to the public on May 28th, on the first year anniversary of Dorset Museum’s reopening. Hardy’s Wessex is a ground-breaking exhibition which spans Dorset Museum and its three partner museums in Dorset and Wiltshire.

The exhibition tells the story of Victorian novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy, amidst the Wessex landscapes that shaped his view of the world. It runs simultaneously at Dorset Museum, Poole Museum, The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum – each focussing on a different Hardy theme.  Dorset Museum will focus on exploring themes of animal welfare and social tensions.

The exhibition was opened by Lord Julian Fellowes of West Stafford, DL, President of the Thomas Hardy Society. He said:

“After years of planning, I am delighted that this exhibition has finally come to fruition, displaying fascinating objects from the Thomas Hardy collection – many of which have remained unseen in museum stores for years. These personal items will help people come to know Hardy as a man, not just as a writer – a man who loved Wessex and so beautifully captured its landscapes and people in his writing.”

Dorset Museum’s Interim Director, Elizabeth Selby, said:

“The literary and cultural significance of Dorset Museum’s Thomas Hardy Memorial Collection cannot be understated, and we are delighted that it will be taking centre stage in this four venue exhibition. It is a wonderful opportunity to see more objects from the collection on display across the Wessex region at our partner venues, and for the story of Hardy’s interest in rural life, social tensions and animal welfare to be explored at Dorset Museum.”

Harriet Still, curator of the exhibition for Wessex Museums, said:

“It is so exciting to share this amazing collection across our museum partnership.  We hope the exhibition will encourage visitors to see Hardy in a different light – for example, how he used his writing to campaign for rural workers’ rights, women’s equality and animal welfare, or his conflicting interests in superstition and science. Each exhibition sheds light on different aspects of Hardy’s life, work and character.”

Thanks to the Art Fund’s Weston Loan programme’ each museum also has a ‘star’ object loaned from national collections, including original manuscripts and nationally-important paintings. The majority of the other objects are from Dorset Museum’s Thomas Hardy Memorial collection, which is inscribed on the Unesco Memory of the World Register for its ‘world significance and outstanding universal value’.

Hardy’s Wessex opens from 28 May until 30 October 2022. Other venues across the two counties are also supporting the exhibition by putting on their own Hardy displays and events.

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