Although not a "native" of Dorset, T E Lawrence adopted the county from the time he was posted to the Royal Tank Regiment at Bovington Camp in 1923, when aged 34. This was basically to escape the continuing unwelcome publicity following his days as "Lawrence of Arabia" during and after WW1. He immediately became a friend and regular visitor on his powerful Brough motorcycle to Thomas and Florence Hardy at Max Gate, in Dorchester. He also soon purchased his own cottage at Clouds Hill, from his distant relatives the Framptons of nearby Moreton. It was at Clouds Hill he eventually spent his short-lived retirement in 1935, before his fatal motorcycle accident almost outside.
The Museum's T E Lawrence Collection, most of it by gift, covers the whole span of his 46 years of life, and reflects the many interests and activities of this enigmatic many-faceted character. At the core of the collection are the twenty-three ring-binders filled with every description of ephemera arranged in chronological order. Included are photographs of Lawrence, his family and associates, and contemporary picture postcards of the many places he visited as he would have seen them. There are photocopies of many of his enlightening manuscript letters (1). Well documented is his work in pre-WW1 archaeology, particularly in the Middle East, followed by his most famous war-time Arabian activities, and later with his lesser-known RAF power-boat development. There is also a comprehensive illustrated genealogical record, and a "Brief Chronology" of the whole of Lawrence's life.
There are of course some published biographical books, as well as illustrated periodicals, booklets and pamphlets. In addition are unpublished manuscript studies, plus other small ephemera, such as newspaper cuttings, and artifact collections.
In the Museum's photographic department are some further photographs, as well as a large and rare important collection of glass slides depicting Lawrence, as well as the Arabian army and terrain as he knew it during his time with the Arab Revolt.
Thus whatever a researcher's own interest may be in Lawrence, it should be found chronicled somewhere in this extensive Collection. This is being gradually catalogued, which should eventually make searching for single events, or themes, that much easier.
Most of this material is not on regular display, and application to view it should be made to the Museum, telephone 01305 262735.
For more about T E Lawrence, consult The T E Lawrence Society
(1) with many of the originals being in the Museum's Thomas Hardy collection which also contains a lock of young Lawrence's hair.