A MUSEUM has been awarded almost £60,000 to help fund an initiative to digitally record artefacts from one of Britain's greatest maritime disasters 200 years ago.

Portland Museum has been awarded £59,014 of National Lottery funding to launch a digital volunteering initiative and break down barriers to heritage.

The funding is part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative, which aims to raise digital skills and confidence across the whole UK heritage sector.

Seventeen projects have been awarded the funding to create digital volunteering opportunities, supporting volunteers to develop and contribute their digital skills. Some opportunities will be offered online – removing barriers such as place, mobility, time commitments and confidence in returning to in-person activities due to the pandemic.

It is hoped that, in turn, heritage organisations will gain the perspectives and skills of ‘at distance’ and on-site digital volunteers, including many who may not have had the chance to volunteer before.

Portland Museum is working in partnership with the Nautical Archaeology Society and MSDS Marine and will be appointing a dedicated Project Manager to lead this project. Portland Museum will welcome hearing from potential new volunteers who are interested in being trained before undertaking the digital recording of the Earl of Abergavenny artefacts.

Dorset Echo: Thomas Luny's painting of the Earl of AbergavennyThomas Luny's painting of the Earl of Abergavenny

The Earl of Abergavenny wreck site has been surveyed, excavated, and artefacts conserved and documented by a volunteer group of amateur maritime archaeologists led by the late Ed Cumming.

In 1805, The Earl of Abergavenny foundered just a few days into its voyage to India and China when the ship struck the Shambles bank off Portland and ran aground.

After five hours the ship, which was commanded by John Wordsworth, brother of the poet William, freed itself and made for Weymouth port only to sink a mile-and-a-half from the shore with its masts still sticking out of the water. Sadly, more than 250 people died in the wreck.

Dorset Echo: A small selection of the Earl of Abergavenny artefactsA small selection of the Earl of Abergavenny artefacts

Lucy Watkins, Portland Museum Manager said: “The story of the sinking in 1805 of the Earl of Abergavenny is one of both great drama and significance to Portland Museum. The combination of its local site and tragic story makes the collection of finds we hold a popular one amongst visitors to the museum.

"With the help of National Lottery funding, we now have the opportunity to train and upskill local volunteers in exciting new, digital recording techniques. Creating a bespoke online site containing 3D images of finds from the wreck of the ‘Earl of Abergavenny’, Portland Museum will soon have the ability to share this exceptional story with audiences far and wide.”

Ros Kerslake, CEO at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Volunteers play a crucial role in supporting and sharing the UK’s heritage. Thanks to National Lottery players we are delighted to support these trailblazing projects, including ‘Diving into the digital archives of the Earl of Abergavenny’ as they create exciting new digital volunteering opportunities, helping to break down barriers and inspire the sector to get even more people involved in the heritage they love.”


t: 01305 830999

e: marie-claire.alfonso


twitter: @MCAlfonsoJourno