Aith Junior High Pupils curate new exhibition at Shetland Museum and Archives

June 30th 2017

A new exhibition has been unveiled telling the story of the whaling ship, Diana. The display has been curated by pupils from P4/5 and P6/7 of Aith Junior High, alongside staff from the Shetland Museum and Archives.

2017 is the 150th Anniversary of the Diana returning to Shetland after being trapped in ice for 7 months whilst whaling in the Arctic. The pupils have selected relevant objects, letters and photographs from the Museum and Archive collections. They have also written the texts, chosen graphics and developed designs in order to create an exhibition. Part of the exhibition is a DVD of the pupils performing “The Voyage Of The Diana”.

The story of the Diana returning to Shetland made national headlines at the time as it was presumed that the ship had been lost. A large proportion of the crew were Shetlanders, with some from the school’s local area. Nine of the thirteen crew who died were Shetlanders.

Mark Balfour, P6/7 teacher explained how the project developed. “ This year, to mark the 150th anniversary of the journey, Primaries 4-7 from Aith Junior High School performed a play in the Shetland county Drama Festival telling the story of ‘Diana of Hull’. The play was written and directed by Marsali Taylor and based on the diary of Charles Edward Smith the ship’s doctor.

To deepen our understanding of what it was like to be on a Victorian whaling ship and to gather as much information as we could about the ‘Diana’, we visited the museum and archives to do some initial research.”

The pupil’s enthusiasm and knowledge on the topic led to Shetland Museum and Archives staff inviting pupils to curate an exhibition for visitors.

Ingrid Smith, P4/5 teacher explains the educational benefits the Exhibition project: “We were very pleased to then be invited to work in partnership with the Shetland Museum and Archives on this exciting project. Pupils had the opportunity to explore in depth the history of the voyage of Diana, by having access to primary sources of information, such as original artefacts, photographs and documents. Pupils were able to use a range of skills including - cooperative learning, communication, drawing skills, analysing and evaluation, as they decided how to create an exhibition sharing key aspects of this historical event with a strong local connection, making the learning context relevant and meaningful for all our learners.”

Kirsty Clark, Lifelong Learning Officer, Shetland Museum and Archives said “We hope visitors enjoy this exhibition as the P4/5 and P6/7 pupils were extremely knowledgeable, engaged and creative in their responses to the objects and papers. We are visited by about 2000 pupils a year but this is the first time we have had an exhibition curated by school pupils and we hope to repeat this project with more classes in the future. We’d like to thank Ingrid Smith and Mark Balfour and their pupils for all their hard work and enthusiasm.”

The display is now available to view in the foyer area outside the Archives search room.