South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

Dorset County Museum redevelopment gets £11.3m HLF grant

Dorset County Museum has been awarded £11.3 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a major redevelopment. It is part of its vision for Tomorrow's Museum - Making Dorset Proud. The work will transform the museum into a state of the art museum.


Exciting plans include a learning and research centre, improved visitor facilities and five new exhibition spaces. Specially designed archive and conservation workshops will feature a public gallery where visitors can oversee the inner workings of the museum and its staff.

Only 1.5% of the museum’s vast collection is currently on display. The enhanced exhibition spaces will allow far more of the four million Hidden Dorset Gems to see the light of day.

Award-winning architects Carmody Groarke have sensitively designed the space to complement the existing building and its historical setting. The Dorset County Museum is set to become one the county’s go to destinations for tourists and residents alike.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, our major investment in Dorset County Museum will enable it to tell more effectively the story of Dorset, spanning more than 200 million years of history. Treasures of national significance such as a rare first edition of Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’, and the largest Thomas Hardy collection in the world, will be able to be seen and understood by many more visitors, in a truly remarkable setting.”

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.”

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.”

Anna Bryant, Chair, SWFed, said: "This is fantastic for the region. The museum has a wide-reaching, ambitious vision, with people at its heart. We are very excited about what is to come and look forward to seeing how the redevelopment makes an impact on people in the South West and beyond."

With this extraordinary award and endorsement, the ‘Tomorrow’s Museum’ campaign requires just £1.6 million to reach its target of £15million.

The final push is now within reach and next month sees the launch of its public fund-raising campaign entitled Hidden Gems.

“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” says Dr Jon Murden.