A NEW, free gallery telling the history of County Durham’s historic regiment is opening tomorrow.
The DLI Collection Gallery: Courage, Comrades, Community is at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, in Durham.
It is one of a number of ways Durham County Council is trying to make the DLI collection available to the public following the closure of the dedicated museum at Aykley Heads last year.
Since then the extensive collection, which includes around 10,000 objects, has been housed at a specialist facility at Sevenhills, near Spennymoor.
The new gallery features a small number of significant objects, including two Victoria Cross medals, the Lahore Trades Cup and the tunic of Witton Park VC winner Roland Bradford.
It also includes interactive games to help people learn about the history of the regiment and a film of old footage, which also includes passages of material from the archive read by the volunteers who look after it.
Curator Jamie Taylor said: “For me the process was trying to figure out what was so special about the regiment. I’m from Durham and I know the DLI has a unique place in people’s hearts. I wanted to know why that was the case. What people kept saying to me was about the DLI family and importance it has to people, and the comradeship that people had in the region.
“It’s full of courageous soldiers who have done amazing things but it’s also rooted in the North-East and there’s a real sense of community around it.”
Mr Taylor and the team at Durham University worked with the DLI Collection to help create the gallery, which is based around the themes of courage, comrades and community.
He added: “We’ve worked quite closely with the collection centre to identify some of the objects and look through the collection.
“I had family in the DLI and it was the first museum I ever went to as a kid but I’m not a specialist so I had to rely on staff at the collection to bring that inside knowledge. That’s where these interesting stories are.
“I really hope it inspires people to find out a bit more. There’s so much more there.”
Gillian Kirkbride, the DLI collection manager, said: “I’m really, really pleased with it. It looks fantastic.
“The main challenge has been to choose objects to reflect such a long history and make it a window to the rest of the collection.”
Durham County Councillor Neil Foster said: “It’s impressive how much it packs in. Every corner has a story to tell.
“It tells the whole story of the regiment from the early campaigns to the individual stories. There’s something for people with an interest in the regiment but for the casual visitor as well.
“We always promised to make the collection accessible to as many people as possible. We are honouring our commitment to the regiment. I would encourage anybody to come along and see what we’ve done.”
The council has agreed a five-year contract with Durham University to run the gallery.
The authority closed the heavily subsidised DLI museum in March amid protests by veterans.
The gallery opens tomorrow and will be open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday, and from noon to 5pm on Mondays.
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