The History Department has been transformed by a stunning series of artworks that are designed to inspire students, provoke thought and commemorate those Oakhamians who served in the Great War.
There are two installations of artwork; firstly the long History Department corridor has been adorned with large iconic images of the 20th Century, and secondly, the stairwell has been brought to life by an impressive wall to floor timeline. Inspired by a display in the Imperial War Museum, the wall art weaves together a general chronology of Britain and the Great War along with the individual stories of the 335 Old Oakhamians and 8 members of staff who served their country in all three branches of the military.
The project saw Oakham’s new Archivist, Charlotte McCrory, work closely with the History Department to bring more of the School’s history to life to current students. The Archives sourced images and helped add sections on aspects of Oakham life and pupils. “It was interesting for us to be able to show how Oakhamians were involved in almost all of the major battles of the War from 1914 to 1918,” says Charlotte. “Some of the images we have used are simultaneously thought-provoking and distressing as they really show the impact of the war at a personal, School level. For example, the image of the 1914 – 1915 Oakham rugby team, where someone has historically drawn red circles around those pupils who fell in the war, shows that almost half of the people in the picture are circled.”
Alongside the Great War timeline, the long History corridor now showcases a variety of large iconic images of the 20th Century. As Head of History, James Roberts, outlines, “we chose moments in time that would provoke scrutiny and reflection. We then added carefully chosen words to act as a ‘hook’ to give pupils a sense of what they were looking at, and to raise issues and questions in their mind that might lead them to find out more. So, for example, the Apollo Moon landing is an amazing, iconic image, even 50 years on, but how many students know about the scientists who built the rockets that got the USA to the moon and the link to the Nazis? ‘Hitler’s rocket man’ might be a surprising title to this picture, but the idea was not to give too much information but instead to provoke further interest.”
The results are stunning and have certainly garnered praise from pupils, staff and visiting parents alike. Most importantly, the response from students, in terms of interacting with the artwork, has been notable. “Pupils have responded very positively and been asking questions about the door pictures because they have seen and thought about them whilst waiting for lessons. Meaning they are already in the mind-set of thinking about History before they even step foot in the classroom,” says James. “The stairwell will become a useful teaching resource in the future, as pupils need to spend some time studying it during their work on the first World War. It will definitely become an integral part of our lessons going forward.”
Since joining in September 2018, Charlotte has been working hard to integrate many of Oakham’s amazing archive materials into the curriculum. With the centenary of the Great War this has included creating supporting materials for Battlefields visits, as well as for a Form 3 study skills project. Those interested in Oakham’s Archives are urged to follow their new blog and twitter feed where they bring Oakham’s history to life.