Dorset County Museum is independently owned and managed by the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society.
It has an eclectic range of works relating to the local area covering as diverse subject areas as archaeology, geology, social history, fine and decorative art, photography, natural history and costume and textiles.
Highlights of the collection include the Moule Dry-Earth Closet which was selected by the BBC and the British Museum as one of the A History of the World in 100 Objects, the Reverend Henry Moule of Dorchester invented this composting toilet in 1859. The floor of the Victorian Hall at the museum contains the Durngate Street Roman Mosaic Pavement and is one of the few places in Europe where you can actually walk on a Roman mosaic. The museum has a strong collection of portraits including work by Gainsborough and Thomas Beach. Frederick Whitehead's scenery of Thomas Hardy's Wessex is well represented. From 1893 he travelled in Dorset for six months each year in his caravan, with his wife Beatrice who entered into the spirit of the lifestyle by dressing up as a gypsy and telling fortunes. There is also a portfolio of Hardy's Wessex views painted by John Everett, the Dorset-born artist and friend of Augustus John and Thomas Hardy. Included among the museum's sculpture collection is a maquette of Dorset-based Elisabeth Frink's Martyrs, commemorating all in the county who had died for their faith.