The Dales Countryside Museum (DCM) in Hawes will re-open with a special exhibition telling the story of schools in the Upper Dales.
A spectacular 4.5 metre-wide photo mosaic will be unveiled to the public on Monday 17 May, as the museum celebrates the end of a six-month closure owing to Coronavirus restrictions.
The Mosaic of Dales Youth, created by art and design studio The People’s Picture led by digital artist Helen Marshall, features nearly 2,300 photo tiles of youth and school-life in Upper Wensleydale, Swaledale and Arkengarthdale. The images were shared by local people over eight weeks in autumn 2020.
The photos come together to reveal two large images selected by Ms Marshall: portraits of David Hodgson of Askrigg School, aged 7 in 1954, and Joan Miller of Yorebridge Grammar School, aged 12 in 1946.
‘The Story of Schools in the Upper Dales’ is also told through interpretation boards, vintage and modern photographs, a short film and oral histories.
The exhibition will open at DCM on 17 May, and run till 18 July 2021. It marks the culmination of a project run by The NASH in partnership with the museum, and funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund.
The NASH Project Manager Emily Rowe Rawlence said: “Once we began delving into the history of The NASH, which is short for National School Hawes, we realised the landscape was peppered with little schools that played transformative roles, all with their own story to tell. This exhibition maps them out and explores themes such as the changing journey to school, the tension between learning and earning and the life of teachers, bus drivers and school attendance officers known as ‘Kiddy Catchers’. It’s amazing how much energy and effort goes into the making of a school.”
Fourteen oral history interviews took place with well-known local people who attended Upper Dales schools from the 1930s onwards. Clips from these interviews have been used in Series One of the Dales Countryside Museum’s Voices From The Dales podcast.
“Recording their stories has been a project highlight,” said Ms Rowe Rawlence. “The exhibition is full of anecdotes, from filling pockets with bullets in the second world war, to walking alone through brutal weather two miles to school and back at only five-years-old, to being sent down the pub to buy cigarettes for the headmaster at breaktime. Each person had a fascinating story to tell of a Dales childhood in the 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s. Together with the giant photo mosaic, they bring the past hundred years to life.”
The exhibition had been due to open on 30 January 2021 but was delayed due to the third national lockdown. The last day will now be Sunday 18 July to give people every chance to visit.
There will also be a programme for local schools run by the project’s Education Officer Heather Hodgson and teacher-actor Mark Cronfield, who will be in the character of a Victorian Headmaster.
Heather Hodgson said: “We all have memories of school, some stronger than others, often evoked by smells, songs and rhymes or photographs. Come and re-live your school days by sharing in our interactive exhibition telling the story of school life in the Upper Dales. There will be family-friendly activities, emotive displays and thought-provoking educational resources.”
Helen Marshall of The People’s Picture said: “I am incredibly excited to have been able to create a work about and for such a special place – revealing so many stories, personal and evocative. I hope many people get to see it in its final online and printed form.”
Fiona Rosher, Museum Manager at DCM, said: “We’re so pleased to be able to share this wonderful exhibition at last. The museum has Covid Secure measures to keep visitors and staff safe, including timed tickets that can be booked online. We look forward to welcoming both visitors and local people to enjoy the exhibition and hope they will share their memories of school life with families and friends.”