Jeremy Lockwood, post-graduate researcher with University of Portsmouth, shares this vision of the future of Dinosaur Isle from the Friends. Ed
An exciting new future for Dinosaur Isle Museum and Sandown Bay.
Sandown Bay is blessed with golden sand, clean sea, stunning views and a fascinating marine ecosystem, but what makes it really special are the rocks beneath it. 125 million years ago they were overrun by dinosaurs whose bones now lie silently under the houses, shops and streets but regularly fall from the eroding cliffs.
Internationally important collection
These bones have been collected since 1840 and are the basis of an internationally important collection containing many creatures found nowhere else in the world.
They attract huge interest from the science community, with world class research being undertaken by universities and London’s Natural History Museum.
Dinosaur Capital of Europe
Everyone loves dinosaurs and Sandown can rightly be called the Dinosaur Capital of Europe. Our ‘Cretaceous Coast’ is crammed with rare and spectacular fossils, so why isn’t the Cretaceous Coast a famous World Heritage site?
Why did Dorset County Museum get £11.3 million of lottery funding last week when our museum is desperate for funds? This demonstrates the huge potential a fully accredited museum with such a rare collection could have for the regeneration of Sandown Bay but also shows that we have a lot of catching up to do.
A private theme park?
Selling off the museum to a private company is not the way to do this. At best this would turn it into a private theme park, not run for the benefit of the community and future generations.
It would fail to qualify for accreditation and grants, and would not attract new donations. In short it would cease to be a proper museum.
Run as a charitable trust
The Dinosaur Isle Development Group want to see the museum run as a charitable trust. This would free the museum to make its own decisions and importantly open the doors to grants and funding for expansion, as well as encouraging volunteers. We have crates full of dinosaurs waiting to be exhibited and have plans for the museum to become much more interactive with lots of new activities for visitors.
The museum will also be a focus for a science hub (Discovery Bay) for the Island, linking with local groups to provide fun-science days out for schools and families, while bringing a new brand of tourism activity to the bay. We are also talking to universities who wish to have a greater presence on the island, with all the benefits that would bring to our youth.
Developing the Bay, collaboratively
A safe and thriving museum will work hand in hand with businesses to develop other areas of the Bay. A dinosaur themed attraction with an accredited dinosaur museum at its heart surrounded by the zoo, and science activities on the beach could be a winning combination to kick start regeneration in Sandown and attract substantial grants.
There is a one off opportunity here for the council to work with the community to form a trust to safeguard and develop the collection and museum while coordinating businesses in the bay.
The Island has a great and valuable heritage in its dinosaurs. It’s time to cherish them and let the world know.