Wiltshire Museum’s new prehistory galleries and Time Team archaeologist Phil Harding attracted a bumper turnout of people at a family fun day on Sunday.
Almost 250 people attended, which is a considerable increase in numbers for a typical family day, and museum director David Dawson said it was testament to the interest in the new galleries that opened a few weeks ago.
Mr Dawson said: “The numbers of visitors have been absolutely fantastic since the new galleries opened. We have had more people through in a week – 750 – than we had in a month and the reaction from people has been great.
“The comments we have had are the galleries are world-class, informative, well laid out, easy to understand and provide a new insight into prehistory. One child said it is a real play museum and others said the museum is so family friendly and brilliant for children.”
On Sunday, visitors tried out the new gallery trail featuring children’s characters Archie the mole and Oliver the worm. As well as the Devizes area, visitors came from Swindon, Warminster and Cheltenham, and a group of space scientists from the USA who were visiting Stonehenge popped into the museum first.
The museum, in Long Street, Devizes, has been working on the new galleries for four years and it will link with the new Stonehenge visitor centre that is opening soon. The project cost £750,000, with roughly half the money coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funding from North Wessex Downs Leader, Plain Action and Wiltshire Council.
The galleries feature 500 Neolithic objects including 30 gold items, including the Stonehenge dagger, which is Mr Harding’s favourite object in the museum.
The TV archaeologist demonstrated flint knapping on Sunday and explained how prehistoric people made flint axes. Visitors were allowed to touch and handle the objects he made.
Storyteller Roger Day had almost 50 people spellbound with his tale of a young boy who travelled from the museum to Stonehenge.
Visitors also took the opportunity to make puppets and made ‘gold’ lozenge pendants.