Begun in spring 2011 the Priest's House Museum Trust has developed an exciting new facility at the museum.
The Hilda Coles Open Learning Centre, a timber-framed building a storey and a half in height, has been constructed along one side of the garden. It houses collection stores, a multi-functional learning and community space, a new tearoom, and visitor facilities.
The new building was officially opened on the occasion of the museum's 50th birthday, 31 July 2012. It has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, charitable foundations, local councils and local people.
The museum has outgrown its capacity to meet the demands for its service. The Trust's aim was to provide improved accessible storage, make available more space for its award-winning learning service and improve visitor facilities. This in turn will ease pressure on the main building, as well as freeing up space within it to develop new galleries and to re-interpret the historic building.
The new centre houses the museum's collections - a unique resource that is used to deliver lifelong learning and community engagement programmes. It will ensure that the collections are cared for in the right environment. The centre will also allow opportunities for members of the community to take part in caring for the collections, receive training and develop new skills.
The museum works closely with all sectors of the community and currently has over 150 volunteers, whose ages range from 14 to over 90! This project has enhanced and developed community participation in the museum through volunteering, learning and family activity programmes. The Hilda Coles Open Learning Centre will allow the museum to become a cultural centre for Wimborne Minster and the district, and bring people of all ages, abilities and social groups together.