Opening date confirmed

Wimborne museum announces reopening date and a new name

  • The Priest’s House Museum, Wimborne, has confirmed its reopening date following a major revival project and will be relaunching with a new name – the Museum of East Dorset.

The much-loved attraction, which closed its doors over a year ago, makes its highly anticipated return on October 26, when the public will be invited back to explore the improved facilities, collections, and exhibitions.

In keeping with its new-look, there is a new name to remember too – the Museum of East Dorset, reflecting the heritage and stories of the communities throughout East Dorset that it collects and displays.

The Museum of East Dorset brand will bring together the different elements which make up the visitor experience: the museum, its collections and exhibitions, and learning and community engagement programmes and events; the historic house and garden; the Information Centre; the Tea Room; the bookshop, and the gift shop.

Museum Director James Webb said:

“We are thrilled to announce the opening date and new name – the Museum of East Dorset, which reflects our collection of 35,000 historical objects relating to East Dorset’s history, our place in the heart of the community, and our important role in preserving, sharing, and celebrating the history and heritage of this area.

“Following the completion of the restoration works in July, and the careful unboxing and curation of our collections for a series of exhibitions in new custom-fitted display cases, the only thing left to do is to open our doors and invite the public back in to see for themselves the incredible results we have achieved. We cannot wait to share it all with them.’

Since it closed in December 2018, the museum and information centre, housed in an historic Grade II* listed building on Wimborne’s High Street, has undergone a £700,000 restoration which transformed the facilities and exhibition spaces and restored and revealed the building’s historic features. The works were completed in June, having been delayed for several months by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The restoration was part of a £1.8 million National Lottery supported Revival Project for the museum and its information centre.

Some 35,000 historical objects are held by the museum relating to East Dorset’s history, including domestic and rural life, crafts, trade, and childhood. The museum also has major holdings of archaeological material, photographs, costume, and ephemera.

Intensive work has been going on behind the scenes for the past four months to complete the final phase, unboxing and selecting items from the collection, and bringing the museum back to life with new exhibitions and displays.

Inspiration has been drawn from the museum’s history to create a new logo and visual identity. The distinctive lettering which spelled out ‘Coles’ – the owners of the then shop – on the shop frontage from the late 1800 through to the 1950s has inspired the lettering in the new museum logo, while the logo’s colour references the front door, the green plaque celebrating Hilda Coles and the new dark green interior walls.

David Morgan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said:

“This is an incredibly exciting time for everyone involved with the museum; the trustees, the staff, and of course the wonderful volunteers, along with the residents of Wimborne and wider area, and our visitors too. It marks the culmination of an enormous amount of hard work, not just in recent months, but also the years of fundraising before that. We are so grateful to everyone who has helped us reach this point.

“I am delighted to say that this ambitious project has been a resounding success. Through the extensive restoration we’ve maintained the museum’s historic charm and character, while making important improvements to access so that we can now offer a better and more inclusive service. We are at last able to open our doors and share and celebrate East Dorset’s fascinating history and heritage with everyone once again.”

“The new logo reintroduces the Coles-style lettering in a fresh new way and so reinforces the link between the house and the Coles family, and hence the origins of the museum.

“The staff and the Trustees feel that the new branding successfully celebrates the community focus of the Museum of East Dorset and the newly refurbished building and interiors, while drawing on our rich heritage.

The £1.8m Revival Project was made possible with a £982,200 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, along with matched funding from local councils and grants and donations from Trusts, Foundations, organisations, businesses, and members of the local community.

For more information, visit:

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Darren Northeast PR (working on behalf of the Museum of East Dorset) on 01202 676762 or [email protected]

Notes to Editors

The Museum of East Dorset

The Museum of East Dorset is the only Arts Council England Accredited Museum in East Dorset and has won the coveted Sandford Award for Heritage Education six times. The museum manages a Tourist Information Centre (TIC) and is a key player in the cultural life of Wimborne and East Dorset. It is housed in a Grade II* listed building dating from late Elizabethan times and still has its original burgage plot – one of only two remaining in the town and heritage planted – an oasis in the busy town.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

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