The Museum of East Dorset is a hidden gem right in the heart of Wimborne. You'll discover heaps of interesting displays, interactive areas, a beautiful garden and tempting tea room.
Step into the historic house which dates back to the 1500s and inside you'll find fascinating stories of the people who lived and worked there over the centuries. For more than 400 years, many different families lived in the building, and from the mid 1700s until 1960 the front portion of the building was likely to be used as a shop. At this point the owner Hilda Coles closed the ironmongers shop as it was last and decided to open it as a museum.
You will enter through the Tourist Information Centre and if you have children with you then you can borrow a cool backpack which contains a Museum Eye Spy Trail, a compass to help you navigate the galleries, an egg timer for any timed challenges, a magnifying glass to help look for small details in the displays, a toy microphone for you to report on your favourite object, a kaleidoscope to view objects and patterns in a different way and a summer trail sheet with clues and fun activities. When you're finished, return your trail sheet to the visitors desk to receive your reward. You can also pick up a landyard with challenges and facts on to keep children engaged and active whilst in the museum.
If the children enjoy learning about local history in a fun way then this is the place to visit. In 2020 the museum received funding for a restoration project and the work undertaken has improved the facilities, exhibition spaces and even provided a new platform lift which allows all visitors to access the upper galleries.
Within the museum there are 11 interactive galleries to discover which include the Voices Gallery, Landscapes and Buildings Gallery, Travel and Communication Gallery and the Life and Death Gallery which has the skeleton of an Iron Age man who was discovered near Tarrant Hinton and is the earliest identified case of prehistoric tuberculosis (TB).
You’ll also see a recreated school room, Roman wall paintings and ancient archaeological artefacts, a preserved kitchen where children can have a go at weighing items on the scales, a Georgian book room, toys from the past and even a mummified cat! During the 1600’s, dead cats, dead chicken or old shoes were often placed in buildings as ‘good luck’ tokens to protect families from harm and disease or as a defence from witchcraft. The mummified cat you can see in the museum was found in the wall of a building in Church Street and with him is a little mummified mouse for company. I’m pleased this is a tradition we no longer see today! There’s so much to see and do and children will really enjoy the hands on activities as they go around the galleries.
Don’t miss the beautiful walled garden where children can take part in a Pixie Trail if they wish to. The trail costs £1 and can be collected from the tea room. Wander the garden area to find all of the Pixie doors and locate them on the sheet before handing the form in to receive a prize.
The tea room which is located in the garden has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, highchairs available on request, hot and cold drinks, temping cakes and light lunches. Next door to the tea room you will find toilets and baby change facilities.
There are many family friendly events which run through the year with fun creative sessions for children and workshops for adults. There will also be a summer fete on Saturday 30th July 2022 with stalls, live music, traditional games, children’s crafts and much more.
For more information on the museum including admission prices, upcoming events and children’s workshops, please visit the Museum of East Dorset.
The garden is open to the public if you would like to visit the tea room and particiapte in the Pixie Trail. Gardens can be accessed next to the library.
The Hilda Coles Opening Learning Centre in the garden has a bright and spacious meeting room which is ideal for groups or a special occasion and is available for hire.
If you have any question while you are there then please do approach one of the members of staff like I did, they are very knowledgable and more than happy to assist. Have fun!