Introducing the team behind the Museum’s ambitious transformation project
Max Hebditch CBE is a Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society trustee and the emeritus Director of the Museum of London. He has also been a trustee of the Museum of London Docklands, former past president of the Museums Association, Chair of the UK Committee of the International Council of Museums and Honorary Curator of Lyme Regis Museum.
How and why did you first become involved with the Tomorrow’s Museum for Dorset project?
My wife, Felicity (who started as a volunteer here earlier than I did) and I moved to Dorchester from Taunton at the end of 2013 and, having had long connections with the Museum, we joined the Society. It was a very good time as the first (stage 1) HLF bid was being prepared. Having spent a long career in museum management, I thought my experience might be useful as DCM is transformed. I was elected to the Board of Trustees at the 2014 AGM.
Why is this project important- to you, to the Museum, and to Dorset?
Somerset and Dorset are to me twin counties. I was brought up in Yeovil and my parents later lived in Morecombelake. So this is a museum I love. For me the Tomorrow’s Museum for Dorset project is absolutely vital if we are to do justice to the collections we hold on behalf of everyone – the people who live in Dorset and the many who visit this beautiful county. In this transformed and expanded building we will be much better able to help people to ask questions about Dorset and to find answers. And we will do it by getting them to look closely at lots of things: historic and contemporary everyday objects, fossils, natural history specimens and works of art.
If the Museum is about things, what’s your favourite object in the Museum and why?
As curators we never like answering this question; every object in the collections contributes something to enhancing knowledge of Dorset. But if I have to choose I would select the delicate small bird skins from South East Asia and Australia. They have nothing to do with Dorset – yet have everything to do with understanding it. They were collected over a century and a half ago by Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913) who lived in Dorset from 1889 until his death. They had helped him develop the concept of evolution by natural selection, at the same time as Darwin, so changing the whole understanding of our place in nature.
How does this compare to other major projects you have been involved with?
I have always worked in historical museums about places and was involved with the Museum of London and its offshoot the Museum of London Docklands from the 1970s until about ten years ago. The Museum of London was a new building in 1976 which we subsequently extended. The Museum of London Docklands was a conversion of historic sugar warehouses. Both are obviously bigger buildings than the Museum for Dorset, but the process and the principles are the same. The new thing for me is that our project includes collections of geology and the natural world. Linking these together with history in new displays is a really exciting task for our team of staff and volunteers.