LYME Regis Museum is thrilled to announce that its doors will reopen to the public on Monday, July 17th following the completion of its new £1.5million Mary Anning Wing extension.
Thanks to National Lottery investors and other funders, the museum now offers a new interactive fossil gallery and Fine Foundation Learning Centre, as well as a larger shop and improved visitor facilities including a lift.
The new extension is described as “contemporary in feel” and has been constructed in glass and zinc, robust materials suited to the museum’s exposed position on Lyme’s seafront, with the extension’s first floor providing sea views across Lyme Bay.
The original museum building has also been repainted and refreshed throughout but retains its Edwardian charm.
Museum director David Tucker said: “The Mary Anning Wing will enable our museum to do much more to make Lyme’s fascinating history accessible to very many more people, as well as ensuring that we are better able to protect the town’s exceptional heritage for future generations.
“It will enable the museum to host more events, improve the offer to the town’s many tourists as well as work with larger museums and universities to encourage the study of Lyme’s unique geology.
“Lyme Regis is the birthplace of the science of palaeontology, and our museum is built on the site of the home of the world’s first, and greatest fossil hunter, Mary Anning.”
The Mary Anning Wing has been generously funded by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, The Wolfson Foundation, The Fine Foundation, the Monument Trust, The Garfield Weston Foundation, Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council, the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership and the Friends of Lyme Regis Museum.
Mr Tucker added: “We are very grateful to all our funders for their help. The range of support we have received has been amazing.
“Our sister-charity, the Friends of Lyme Regis Museum, raised £68,000, the National Lottery contributed £798,000 and we received many smaller but equally valuable gifts, including £10 from a 15 year old who donated her pocket money after visiting us.”
The Mary Anning Wing has been designed by Robert Battersby of Bristol firm Architecton Architects, constructed by Devon company Skinner Construction and project managed by Currie and Brown. The new geology gallery has been designed by specialists Smith and Jones Designers.
Commenting on the new extension, chairman of the museum trustees, Stephen Locke, commented: “The Mary Anning wing is the most important transformation of the museum since it was built over a century ago. It will give the museum a vigorous future – educating, inspiring and entertaining our many visitors.
“None of this would be possible without the enduring commitment and enthusiasm of our many volunteers and supporters, not least my fellow trustees and Lyme Regis Town Council.
“I thank all those who have helped us on behalf of the thousands of diverse people who will enjoy Lyme Regis Museum in the years to come.”
Situated at the heart of the Jurassic Coast, the museum has a spectacular collection of local fossils and runs very popular fossil walks on the same beaches that Mary Anning walked 200 years ago.
The museum also tells the story of Lyme’s other great events and people, its famous writers Jane Austen and John Fowles; the Monmouth Rebellion, the last attempted invasion of England; and Lyme’s “greatest citizen” Thomas Coram, founder of the Foundlings Hospital, England’s first charity.
“The range of support we have received has been overwhelming”, added Mr Tucker.
“The National Museum of Wales, The University of Oxford and the British Geological Survey have loaned very important fossils, including finds that relate to Lyme’s great fossil hunters. On a daily basis we have received guidance and help from the museum’s very able volunteers, without whom the museum simply couldn’t operate”.
Sir Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset, commented: “Lyme Regis Museum is a wonderful place, a great adornment for this ancient town, and a splendid introduction to the Jurassic Coast. The construction of the new Mary Anning Wing will not only provide a further enhancement of the museum for those who are visiting or studying in this remarkable part of the world but also make a significant contribution to the long-term viability of the museum as a whole.
“I strongly welcome the energy that is being injected into this historic museum, and I hope that this exciting new project will receive support from every quarter.”
Nerys Watts, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, added: “Home of geological and charitable ‘firsts’, the inspiration of literary greats and the place to go for generations of people fascinated by fossils, Lyme Regis has an extraordinarily rich heritage.
“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the new Mary Anning Wing provides fossil enthusiasts and fossil novices alike a gateway into the inspiring story of its namesake and the museum’s fascinating collections. We look forward to the grand reopening!”