Dorset County Museum was established in 1845 to save the natural history and archaeology of a county felt at risk from the effects of the Industrial Revolution

Illustration of the Museum from The Building News, 26 January 1883
Illustration of the Museum from The Building News, 26 January 1883

Dorset County Museum was founded on 15th October 1845 by poet William Barnes, Reverend Charles W.Bingham and the vicar of Fordington, Reverend Henry Moule who had formed an organisation to protect Poundbury, Maumbury and the town’s natural history.

Originally housed on the south side of High West Street, the Museum moved to Trinity Street and later to the site of the Old George Inn. In 1928 the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club formally amalgamated and became responsible for its upkeep and collections. The Field Club was renamed the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society who continue to manage and care for the Museum today.

In 1937 the Museum received its first grant from the Dorset County Education Committee. A new Geology Gallery opened, while the following year Thomas Hardy’s papers and the contents of his Max Gate study were bequeathed to the Museum.

Judge Jeffreys Lodgings, 1st home of the Museum 1846-1851
Judge Jeffreys Lodgings, 1st home of the Museum 1846-1851

Following the Second World War, Dorset’s growing tourist industry meant that the Museum was able to expand, with a new Natural History gallery built in 1952, a Multipurpose Gallery and conservation laboratory in 1973, and an Archaeology Gallery in 1984 landing the Museum a prestigious National Heritage ‘Museum of the Year’ award.

With the advent of the National Lottery Heritage Funding since the 1990s many galleries have been added and refurbished. The Writers’ Dorset gallery opened in 1997, the Dorchester Gallery opened in 2003 and the Jurassic Coast Gallery (celebrating England’s first natural World Heritage Site) opened in 2006.

In 2015, the Museum received support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for Tomorrow’s Museum for Dorset. The sensitive yet contemporary redevelopment opening in 2020 will transform the Museum into a state-of-the-art learning centre, with gallery and research spaces, a shop and tearoom, and improved archive and storage facilities advancing public access to our vast collection.

February - May 2018

Dippy On Tour

Never seen before on display outside London since he arrived at the Natural History Museum in 1905, Dorset County Museum welcomed ‘Dippy on Tour’ for the first stop of his UK tour in February 2018. The 12-week stay of the 26-metre-long and 4-metre-high diplodocus was a roaring success, welcoming over 153,189 visitors including 8400 local school children, and boosting £2,250,000 to the local economy.

‘Dippy on Tour’ at Dorset County Museum and the tours partner Jurassic Coast Trust have been crowned Gold winners at the South West Business Leisure & Tourism Award, Event of the Year and Outstanding Contribution to Tourism at Dorset Tourism Awards 2018, and Bronze winner for South West Tourism Excellence Awards.

Dippy’s visit to Dorset would not have been possible without the generosity and support of the Garfield Weston Foundation, Natural History Museum, Jurassic Coast Trust, the Museum’s 200 volunteers and the whole community who came together.