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New museums for autumn 2016

December 1, 2016

Discovering hidden gems in the museum world is always a welcome delight.  This autumn the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading and the Museum of Marine Life in Kimmeridge, Dorset, opened their doors to the public.  Both sites* have received large grants to develop their galleries and are well worth a visit, despite having low profiles.

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Unlike MERL, the Museum of of Marine Life, is a completely new venue located along the Jurassic Coast in the Purbeck.  The rural setting is the home to the Etches Collection of unique marine fossils.  Steve Etches, a local collector, has discovered and brought together over 2,500 specimens includes crocodiles, sharks, flying reptiles, corals, shells, insects, crustaceans, ichthyosaurs, belemnites and dinosaurs.

The building doubles up as a community space for the village of Kimmeridge.  While the museum gallery uses audio visuals to show off the amazing fossils and explore the diverse marine life that lived in the Jurassic period over  150 million years ago.  The walls above the main gallery have CGI projections giving visitors the impression of being underwater with prehistoric creatures swimming above. At the end of the gallery the visitor can view the conservation studio and sometimes see Steve Etches preparing his latest specimens.  Despite all the high tech aids, the amazing fossil specimens provide a sense of wonder, even to the uninitiated, and makes you want to go out the nearby coastline and see if you can find some fossil beasties!

*The Etches Collection which formed part of the Kimmeridge Trust received £2.8 million and MERL attracted £1.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund

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