A fossil museum on the Dorset coast has reopened its doors after five weeks of “vital” refurbishment works.

The Etches Collection in Kimmeridge was closed for five weeks for gallery refurbishments to take place. It reopened its doors to the public on Monday, March 25.

The museum garnered widespread media attention in December after a BBC documentary with David Attenborough was announced sharing the discovery of a 150-million-year-old pliosaur near Kimmeridge Bay.

READ MORE: Dorset fossil subject of David Attenborough documentary

Dr Steve Etches, who is the museum’s founder and Head of Collections, helped to excavate and restore the pliosaur skull in the museum's workshop - a process which was featured in the documentary. 

Dorset Echo:

Dr Etches and Chris Moore both previously worked with Sir David on another documentary about a fossilised marine reptile – Attenborough and the Sea Dragon – back in 2018.

The fossil went on permanent display early in January at the Etches Collection and has attracted more than 17,500 visitors.

The gallery refurbishment project was made possible with a £219,500 grant from The Wolfson Foundation and from The Department of Culture, Media, and Sport - Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund.

It took 18 months of planning from the writing of the grant application, dismantling the old cabinets and building the new fit-for-purpose cases, to selecting which specimens go on display.

Dr Steve Etches has spent more than 30 years amassing over 2,000 specimens and is excited for to be able to showcase the pliosaur and other fossil specimens in the newly refurbished gallery. 

He said: “Not only do we have one of the most complete pliosaur skulls in the world on permanent display, but we also now have new state-of-the-art cabinets that have given us more options for displaying the collection.

“We also have a greatly enhanced humidity-controlled environment for our precious specimens, significantly prolonging their display-life. Interestingly we are the only museum in the country to have such a technologically advanced set-up, so we are very proud of that.”

Dorset Echo: The pliosaur skull

The museum has also recently launched a JustGiving page to raise funds to cover the costs of excavating the remaining body of the pliosaur featured in the Attenborough documentary.

READ MORE: Etches Collection plans for pliosaur excavation work

You can donate to the fundraiser by going to the JustGiving page:  https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/searex