December opening for new Stonehenge visitor centre

New exhibition and visitor centre at Stonehenge to open on 18 December.

The front elevation of the new visitor centre at Stonehenge

The first phase of the long-awaited improvements of the visitor experience of Stonehenge will be launched to the public before the year is out.

English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, explained that the new building – located 1.5 miles from the World Heritage Site in Wiltshire – will house the first ever museum-quality permanent exhibition dedicated to the site.

The exhibition is to be curated by English Heritage experts and will include a 360-degree virtual experience so that visitors can ‘stand in the stones’ before they enter a gallery presenting the facts and theories surrounding the monument through various displays and nearly 300 prehistoric artefacts.

The archaeological finds exhibited were all discovered inside Stonehenge and many are on public display for the first time.

The approach to Stonehenge on the A303 road in 1930

The centre will open with the first of many special temporary exhibitions. Set in Stone? How our ancestors saw Stonehenge will chart over 800 years of ideas and debate, from 12th-century legends to radiocarbon dating reports in the 1950s and will feature objects on loan from many national museums.

“This world famous monument, perpetually described as a mystery, finally has a place in which to tell its story,” says Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage.

“The exhibition will change the way people experience and think about Stonehenge forever – beyond the clichés and towards a meaningful inquiry into an extraordinary human achievement in the distant past. It will put at its centre the individuals associated with its creation and use, and I am very proud with what we have to unveil to the world in December.”

Changes have also been made to the surroundings of the actual monument. These include the Avenue, Stonehenge’s ancient processional approach, which has been reconnected to the stone circle after being severed by the A344 road for centuries. The area will be grassy and free of traffic.

A group of reconstructed Neolithic houses are scheduled to be opened by Easter 2014. The houses are the focal point of the outdoor gallery and are particularly special given that they have been built by volunteers and the structures are based on houses where the builders of Stonehenge may have lived. The interiors will even come with furniture and fittings.

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