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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28 October 2022, 10:30am - 11:30am

Wessex Folk Tales: Story-telling with Tim Laycock

Participatory folk stories and songs for all the family.

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Special Exhibition

28 May – 30 October 2022

Take a fresh look at the Victorian novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy, in the stunning Wessex landscapes that shaped his view of the world. His story will be retold in exciting new ways by our museum collections, from period costumes to personal letters, art to archaeology.

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9 September 2022 - 14 October 2022

Drawing Into Life – 6 Week Creative Course

Six week art course designed for adults interested in art and archaeology. This new course is an exciting opportunity to get up close with some extraordinary artefacts in the collection at Dorset Museum. You will be drawing inspiration from prehistoric art including Neolithic flint tools, Anglo Saxon gold, precious burial goods, Roman mosaics, decorative textiles and archaeological maps amongst others, and have the chance to work directly from the Elisabeth Frink collection.

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Community Exhibition

3 October 2022 - 8 February 2023


Unmasked is a local, voluntary project that began in the dark days of March 2020, when a new disease called COVID-19 literally stopped the world as we knew it.

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Poetry Evening


Who’s in the Next Room?

Poems by Thomas Hardy with new writing from Paul Hyland, Kate Scott, Catherine Simmonds & Pam Zinnemann-Hope

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Big Draw 2022

9 October 2022, 10:30am - 12noon

The Big Draw at Dorset Museum

Come and take part in our Big Draw event at Dorset Museum. Inspired by the natural world around us, colour and natural forms, help us create a giant collage in the style of Henri Rousseau to display in one of our galleries.

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11 October 2022, 11:00am - 12:00pm

Archaeology Highlights Tour

Explore archaeological treasures held by Dorset Museum – from Bronze Age gold to medieval silver -  in this volunteer-led tour.

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13 October 2022, 5:00pm - 7:00pm

Museum after hours

Join us for an opportunity to explore the Museum at this free late opening

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13 October 2022, 7:00pm - 8:00pm

A persistent place: a new chronology for Neolithic Dorchester

The area underneath and around the town of Dorchester was an important place for Neolithic people, who built a variety of monuments here over a period of 2000 years. In this talk, Dr Susan Greaney discusses the research project that has obtained radiocarbon dates from samples of antler picks, charcoal and human remains held in the Dorset Museum collection and has been able to build a brand new chronology for the monuments.

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