DOORS to a collection of thousands of fossils and a Dorset man's life dedicated to searching the Kimmeridge shores are set to open to the public this week.

The Etches Collection – a multi-million pound project documenting the discoveries of Steve Etches from Kimmeridge, is opening its doors for the first time to the public on Friday.

The museum, nestled in the village of Kimmeridge on the Dorset coast, brings the history of 150 million year old marine reptile fossils to life with a blue room surrounded by a modern CGI virtual aquarium and dramatic ocean sounds.

Giant fossilised femurs and two metre long jaws of pliosaurs line the walls alongside predators and the remains of their prey. Pliosaurs, sharks and ichthyosaurs glide the surrounding digital waters.

Carla Crook, Mr Etches daughter, has worked alongside her father to make the collection accessible to the public. Previously, the fossils were all kept in the family's garage which Mr Etches turned into a private museum.

Mrs Crook said: "It's so exciting – this is dad's life. He has been collecting fossils for 35 years – he used to drag us down the beach and collect and we would get so bored.

"But as you get older you gain more respect and appreciation for it.

"This is his gift to the nation and his legacy that the general public can benefit from for years to come.

"He was always worried about when he dies what would happen to the collection, and now there is a safe and secure home for it in Dorset."

Mr Etches received an MBE in 2014 for his services to palaeontology. His aim has always been to make the collection available to the public and 'share the remarkable stories behind the extraordinary creatures'.

Mr Etches said: "Each fossil has a different story. The stuff is completely new to science and a glimpse into a time that hasn't really been concentrated on before."

By stories, Mr Etches refers to the bones with tooth marks which tell the tale of predators and prey circling the Dorset waters together in the Kimmeridgian period.

Mr Etches, who started collecting fossils aged five, said: "It was a childhood interest of mine and developed from there."

Working as a full-time plumber, the profession gave the collector the time and flexibility to go out looking for fossils.

The museum isn't just a home for the fossils. The £4.7 million project which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and private investors, including Dorset County Council, includes a new village hall designed to be a 'cultural community centre' and a discovery room for school and university groups.

* The Etches Collection opens to the public on Friday, October 21. For more information, visit