Hotts, Ireshopeburn, Bishop Auckland, DL13 1HD
The Weardale Museum
Looking Back and Forwards
By Kate Gill
AT this time of year, the Museum is usually working with St Thomas's Church, Stanhope, in planning for the annual Weardale Festival. Sadly, like so many events it is not to be this year, but it is an opportunity to look back and be inspired by what has been achieved in the past.
The Weardale Family History Festival in 2017 was a great piece of collaborative working between the museum and the church. It combined using the beautiful, ancient building with the large family history resources of the museum.
As a 'first' there was a lot to learn and we didn't get everything right - we were left with rather a lot of brochures! There was a lot of discussion about what to display, how to do it and the format.
Decisions were made to make it a 9-day event, including 7 talks, and 2 concerts. Two of the museum's volunteers were on hand each day to help visitors with their family history research queries and this proved to be extremely popular. We had visitors from the dale and far beyond.
Building on the success the organisers decided to try to make the festival an annual event and 2018 gave us the topic - the commemoration of the end of the First World War.
The focal point was the 'Boot Memorial' made up of ex-army boots donated by Catterick Garrison - one for each Weardale man who lost his life. It was decorated with crosses and poppies as well as photos of some of the men.
Such a unique idea got us a slot on BBC Look North, great publicity and on opening day people were queuing to get in.
The museum's archive of photographs of WWI soldiers was proudly displayed along with stories of bravery, loss and life back at home.
Everyone loves to see old photographs and so the idea for the 2019 Festival was born using the museum's huge archive of images of the Dale and its people. Following a similar format to previous years there were talks and concerts. Displays of photographs of the towns and villages in the Dale sparked a lot of interest and discussion. Included were some 'then and now' photos as well as a competition for all ages.
We had barely started to think about 2020 when lockdown hit us, but an
idea had been suggested - a 'Festival of Light' being run by the museum and the Light Up the Dale Community Group. Focussing on different aspects of light in all its forms from candles, fairy lights, projected images to the religious aspect of 'Christ the Light of the World'. Maybe next year?
Looking to the future, by the time this goes to print the purchase of High House Chapel should be completed and plans are in place to start essential repairs and alterations to develop the Weardale Museum and Heritage Centre. A very exciting but daunting time for all those involved.
Please help to support your local museum though these difficult times - follow us on Facebook, become a 'Friend', and maybe be ready to volunteer a little of your time to help us go forward into our new future.
For further information contact
Kate Gill [email protected] com
or call 07990786220