My sister and my twin nieces (9 years old) were staying with us over half term. To keep them occupied we’d planned to do a couple of things with them. Dragging them geocaching, I mean treasure hunting, didn’t happen, although there was a lot of excitement when it came to hunting out Easter eggs. A planned visited to the Dorset County Museum, which they didn’t know about, to see Dippy the dinosaur did go ahead on a mainly dry if chilly Easter Monday.
Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure is the title of an exhibition touring the UK that is giving the nation the chance to view one of the best known dinosaurs in the country. Dippy the Diplodocus. The cast of the dinosaur has left its home at the Natural History Museum and is visiting a number of locations around the United Kingdom between now and October 2020.
First stop on the tour was Dorchester and the Jurassic Coast.
Although we’ve visited Dorchester a number of times over the years, this was the first time that we have ever visited this particular museum. Having booked tickets for the 2pm slot we were early arriving in Dorchester and so spent a bit of time wandering around.
Bypassing the Tutankhamun exhibition, which we’d never have got my Egyptian mad niece out of, we popped into a couple of shops; including Waterstones where I picked up a copy of Cecil Beaton: Portraits & Profiles. Beaton being a research topic in one of the exercises for Part 3 I thought I’d get a book I’d spotted in Waterstones, Bristol about him. Instead I ended up with this, at first skim through, a fascinating book of his portraits of various people; with his own written descriptions of them. Too late to use for Part 2, but just in time for the formal portrait exercise in Part 3.
Arriving at the museum just before 2pm, our tickets were checked, we were given stickers that would indicate that we had booked to see the rest of the museum as well as Dippy. Seeing the Diplodocus was free but the rest of the museum incurred a charge. Bags examined we made our way up a level to the gallery that surrounded the dinosaur cast.
It was packed.
Being the Easter weekend and also something that a lot of people aren’t going to get a chance to see again on their doorstep, lots of families had made the same decision as us. In fact we bumped into a friend and her family as well as a work colleague and his.
Dippy fills the large, open, two storey gallery in the museum. Its head is at one end, literally only inches from a glass screen where you can take photos of yourself with Dippy as the backdrop. At the other end the tail curves gently in order that it can fit within the area.
In work, a few days ago I was chatting with the colleague I’d seen and we found ourselves discussing whether we think the tail had been bent specifically to allow the skeleton to fit within the museum space, or whether it normally bends like that.
Around the gallery are numerous smaller exhibits, mostly fossils but in one cabinet there were a number of preserved birds. Plaques provide copious amounts of information for those that take the time to read them. Whoever curated the exhibition has done an incredible job.
After wandering around the upper gallery we went down to the lower level and were able to get a view of Dippy from underneath. The ground level being a larger area than the gallery it was less crowded and it was possible to get a better view of the Diplodocus skeleton. Around the room were a few more displays, a wooden dinosaur skeleton and a large picture of dinosaurs that you could stand in front of and have your photo taken.
Seeing the remnants of one of these creatures its easy to imagine just how frightening it would be to have come across one in the flesh. Thank goodness they became extinct millions of years ago.
Moving on from the Dippy exhibition we made our way around the rest of the museum.
First stop was a couple of rooms. One contained a display consisting of a farm cart, some hand ploughs and a variety of farm implements. The second room was fitted out like the interior of a late 19th century, early 20th century house with bed, table and various household goods including an early bellows-type vacuum cleaner.
The remainder of the exhibition was on the upper floor of the museum, and we continued after a brief stop in the museum café.
First stop was the Jurassic room where there were more fossils and models of dinosaurs, including a life size fossil Ichthyosaur head and jaws as well as a model of the same as it would have looked in life. Very quickly I found myself left behind by the others.
Lots of families had taken advantage of the Bank Holiday and were visiting the museum, at one point I found myself chatting with a lady about her grandson who she had brought to the museum and who knew everything about dinosaurs that a young child could know, to the point that he corrected his gran when she got things wrong, something she delighted in doing just so he could share his knowledge with her.
The next few sections of the museum were devoted to local artists, poets, a large section about Thomas Hardy, Sylvia Townsend Warner and several other authors. So much to see and read, I could have spent far longer than we had wandering around.
On the walls were a number of photographs from the 19th and early 20th century. Looking at a number of the photographs I found myself thinking about how they would have been taken, photographs of farmhands where they would have had to hold still while performing an action; like winding a handle on a machine, while the photographer took the photograph. Previously I would never have thought about what was involved in capturing images like these. Knowing more about the history of photography has given me a deeper appreciation for how these images were captured.
The final part of the museum was dedicated to ancient Britain and the Romans. Again lots of artefacts to look at and information to read. There was even a man and his daughter playing what appeared to be an ancient variant of chess.
I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, there was a lot to see and when I have a bit more time spare I’ll go back and take a more leisurely wander around the museum, and maybe even make a day of it and visit some of the others dotted around the town.