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Sorry, no time to be bored, theres far too much to see and do and touch
The Tank Museum (Dorset)
Member Name: moo2moo
The Tank Museum (Dorset)
Date: 01/11/09, updated on 01/11/09 (36 review reads)
Advantages: There really is something for everyone
Disadvantages: You need a full day there to see everything
When the car obessed love of your life announces he wants to visit a tank musuem whilst on holiday you grit your teeth and get it over and done with as soon as possible. Having been dragged around several dozen draughty small collections of random militaria over the past decade we knew precisely what to expect and we held firm to those expectations right up until the point we entered the car park. A proper car park with tarmac and parking bays. That makes a very pleasant change to playing avoid the rusty pile of junk in the corner a field.
The building itself is rather pleasing on the eye too. A low level rotund modern terracota venue with huge and imposing glass widows, a very generous outdoor ramp up to a terraced cafe and directly in front of the entrance a large childrens play area with enough equipment to appease the average ten year old whilst providing plenty for the under threes too.
The entrance to the building is light airy welcoming and heated. Things were looking up. The reception desk was efficiently manned by five members of staff who dealt with the small queue very efficiently and cheerfully. This turned out to be the general staff attitude throughout our visit. A vast proportion of the staff were actually volunteers with an average age of 80 or so making them the perfect guardians of a collection dating from World War I. No question was too obscure for them to answer and they were genuinely happy to answer any and all questions whether it be those of hyper excited four year olds or the more complex of mechanicaly minded adults.
As a family of four we parted with £30 which was about average in the area for entry to an attraction. Ordinarily this would be a single day visit but by opting to Gift Aid my donation, which didn't cost me any more but enabled the musum to reclaim the tax, this was automatically upgraded to a free annual admission to the tank museum for me and any other adult or children I chose to take with me on any future visits.
The museum is laid out into galleries according to date of manufacture and also the war the tank was developed for. Each gallerie is accessed via a very wide gently curving ramp making the entire museum fully accesible for pushchairs and the disabled. The entry hall contans a number of childrens quizzes and a selection of pencils with which to complete them. These range from a teddy bear hunt to a spot and identify the unit logo on each tank. It kept our children quiet and observant throughout our visit. Not that they needed the quiz as there were interactive facts for children within each room ranging from uniform jigsaw puzzles to explanations of camouflage. I discovered plenty of things I hadn't known before.
As for tanks there are hundreds of them although no more than one of any type. They range from tiny motorbike powered tanks to enormous armoured personnel carriers. They're all close enough to touch, many are available for you to look inside, several have been cut in half so that you can ride through them in a wheelchair and for £2.50 you can go for a ride round the outdoor test track in one.
The exhibits aren't limited to tanks. Theres a very realistic walk through scale model of the trenches which was very authentic (unless you were actually there in which cases it'll be nothing like the real thing as it was warm and dry and didn't smell) but it still gave pause for thought and explained more in five minutes than my school history lessons ever did. There are also displays of uniform, medals, gas masks, nuclear, biological and chemical warfare suits throughout the ages as well as short overviews of their original owners.
At 12 noon a tannoy announcement was made that an outdoor display would be taking place. Sufficient notice was given that we retrieved the picnic from the car and took a seat on the large grassy banking overlooking the site. Staff carried out extra seating for pregnant mums and those on walking sticks. Nothing was too much trouble. The display itself lasted 30 minutes with a very informed and most importantly interesting comentary with enough variety to keep the audience and most importantly the children within the audience captivated for the duration.
In fact there was literally tons to keep children occupied throughout from camo face painting to a huge childrens corner with colouring, dressing up and free computer simulation games as a tank driver on the battlefield.
The museum has a cafe and a separate coffee shop although we didn't use either the advertised prices weren't overly expensive.
If thats not enough for you the Tank Museum also offer a heap of extras including childrens birthday parties (£13 per person), a half day tank ride experience (£150 per person), a behind the scenes tour including a visit to the workshops (£45 per person) and the ultimate tank experience days (all of the above £265) which includes a driving leson over a two mile MOD cross country circuit.
The museum also offers an enormous varitey of out of hours lectures for between £10 and £12.50 per head with guest speakers including authors Chris Ryan and Bernard Conwall as well as military historains and the soldiers themselves. There are also an array of fundraising evenings including Proms in the Tank Park, Wartime Dinner Dances and the Light Cavalry bands rock and pop concert which are affordably priced at £7.50 per head or £20 including a 2-course buffet meal.
Toilets are plentiful, spacious and clean as is everything else about the museum. Theres a large gift shop too with an enormous selection of books on tanks.
If we lived closer I'd definately return again and again and again.
Summary: Well thought out and very interesting
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