Heritage Lottery Funding Confirmed for Dorset Museum

It has been announced that Dorset County Museum will receive over £11 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, one of the largest grants the county has ever seen. The planned extension and redevelopment plans for the Museum will provide an exciting new opportunity for many of the brilliant objects in storage to be displayed. Indeed, from the four million items in the Museum’s collection, only 1.5% are currently exhibited.

The funding will provide a new state of the art learning centre, better archive and storage facilities and better public access to displays of the Museum’s vast collection. This will be achieved through the sensitive yet contemporary redevelopment of the current building, which will transform Dorset County Museum’s facilities and double its visitor numbers.

There will be new gallery spaces, area for researchers to work and open workshop spaces so the public can see for themselves the fascinating inner workings of the museum. This project will enable the restoration and preservation of the historic Revd. John White’s Rectory. There will also be a new shop and tearoom, accessible from the street.

Explaining the importance of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s support, Nerys Watts, head of HLF South West, said: “From the spectacular Weymouth Bay pliosaur to the largest Thomas Hardy collection in the world, the collections at Dorset County Museum provide an unrivalled picture of 185 million years of our area’s heritage. We’re thrilled to support these plans which will transform the museum, preserve their incredible collections and finally enable visitors to get a true insight into Dorset’s past.”

Dr. Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum, said: “We are overjoyed that the HLF have given us this opportunity. For the first time, we will have the space to do justice to our amazing collections, whilst ensuring they are safely preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

Founded in 1845, Dorset County Museum is the repository and the protector of Dorset’s rich history. Behind it’s Victorian gothic façade on Dorchester’s High West Street, astonishing collections of geology, archaeology, social history, literature and the arts have been assembled, containing articles of international significance.

As Yvonne Golds, Creative Director at Real Studios said, “We are delighted for the museum and very excited to be a part of a project that will see this world-class collection redisplayed as a key element of Dorset’s ‘Tomorrows Museum’ project.”

To demonstrate the importance of the HLF’s funding, in the coming weeks Dorset County Museum will launch their Hidden Gems campaign will to bring to the forefront not only its most mysterious and intriguing artefacts, but will highlight some of Dorset’s fantastic individuals who both embody the values of the Museum, and whose inspirational efforts will enable future generations to benefit from an accessible, state-of-the-art space. From a world-renowned explorer, to a nine-year-old aspiring artist, to the driving force behind Tomorrow Museum’s fundraising campaign, Hidden Gems delves into the plethora of brilliant people living in this beautiful county.

However, despite the grant, there is still some way to go. The Museum currently faces a shortfall of £1.6 million which they will have to raise before work starts.

“In recognising the importance of preserving our common heritage for future generations, our ancestors gave generously, it’s now time for us, the people of Dorset and custodians of Tomorrow’s Museum, to make our own contribution”. Cllr Peter Wharf, Dorset County Council Cabinet member for workforce, said.

“The County Council is delighted to hear about the investment in the Dorset County Museum by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  We appreciate that it will raise Dorset’s cultural offer for local people and tourists, we know the positive impact that such a great community asset has on health and wellbeing and that this injection of funds will boost the local economy. The council has also committed £200,000 to this transformation of the museum as an investment for the next generation of visitors.”

Tomorrow’s Museum for Dorset will transform the Museum, for the collections and for generations of people who want to explore and enjoy its treasures.

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