Peter Pan starts a flight of the imagination

24th June 2005 at 01:00
J. M. Barrie - Peter Pan Shambellie House Museum of Costume, New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway. Until August 21 tel 01387 850375

Certainly J.M. Barrie would have approved. An exhibition to celebrate the centenary of Peter Pan is running at Scotland's National Museum of Costume near Dumfries, where the author went to high school.

And the exhibition has borrowed clothes specially made for Finding Neverland, the film released last year about Barrie's friendship with the family who inspired his story.

Barrie, who was born in Kirriemuir, Angus, went to high school not far from New Abbey, where Shambellie House was built in 1856, just a few years before the writer was born. Charles Stewart, great grandson of the original owner, donated the house to the National Museums of Scotland in 1977, along with an extensive collection of period clothes.

The J. M. Barrie - Peter Pan exhibition features beautifully made outfits worn by Johnny Depp, who portrayed Barrie, and Kate Winslet, who played Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, mother of the boys who inspired the play, which was first performed in London 100 years ago last year on December 27, 1904.

Complementing them is the story of Peter Pan told in a series of brightly coloured panels, taken from the original magic lantern slide show of the book.

Margaret Roberts, the museum manager and textile conservator, says:

"Visitors have been surprised to discover the lasting impact that Peter Pan has had on our culture. For instance, many didn't realise that the term Wendy house came from the little house the lost boys of the story made for Wendy Darling."

Temporary exhibitions are a bonus at Shambellie House but the main attraction for schools is the programme of workshops based on the museum's permanent displays of historic costume, which are shown on life-like mannequins in period settings, where the attention to detail is brilliant.

In the Victorian dining room, for instance, the table is set with the kind of food and flowers (all made by a specialist theatrical company) that would have been typical in well-to-do homes of those days. The costumes of the mannequin family are accessorised with gloves, fans, wedding rings and even, in the case of the man-of-the house, a cigar.

Primary school groups, who travel from as far as Glasgow and Carlisle, have a choice of dressing up for the Victorian school room or the servants'

chores, with authentic costumes provided for all the children (and accompanying adults, if they want).

Teachers who choose the servants' chores for their group surely experience a moment of inner joy as the pupils are put to work polishing bannisters, sweeping stairs and beating carpets. Girls are also taught to curtsy to visitors, as would have been expected of female servants in Victorian times.

From next term, Shambellie House will offer schools a Home Front workshop, based around the museum's Second World War drawing room, where the Stewart family, plus (stuffed) cat, in their utility clothes enjoy afternoon tea.

Peter Pan workshops will run throughout the summer.

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