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York Castle Museum partners with York Travellers Trust for exciting new exhibition, opening on 27 May 2023

DATE: 16 May 2023

York Castle Museum is proud to present a new community exhibition developed with York Travellers Trust (YTT), celebrating the rich history of the Gypsy and Traveller Communities (GTC) in York. Through photography, an installation designed by members of the GTC, historical information and a film, the display will celebrate their important connections to the city.

Gypsy and Traveller communities are often portrayed as one group. The truth is that although they share traditions, language and cultures, they vary from family to family and from town to town. The communities have faced challenges and discrimination over the years, including issues with accommodation, education, and healthcare. In York, we have large, settled communities of Gypsies and Travellers who have lived in the city for generations on sites and in houses.

Philip Newton, Communities Engagement Researcher at York Museums Trust said: “We’re excited to share this exhibition space with York Travellers Trust, and provide a platform for members of GTC to tell their stories. Our collections can help the GTC share this important history, and we are pleased to be discussing two important objects from the collections – the Wagon and a painting by Dame Laura Knight. We’re grateful for YTT’s ongoing support and collaboration, and have loved working with them on this display. We hope our visitors will enjoy the exhibition and learn more about this significant part of York’s history.”

The object which has the most importance to the GTC, that York Castle Museum cares for, is the Wagon – also known as a Vardo or previously, the Gypsy Caravan. The wagon was built by William Wright of Leeds in 1897 and was purchased by Jacob and Harriet Winter to use as a home. It was sold in 1915 and went on to have different owners, until 1957 when York Castle Museum purchased the wagon and began to carry out restoration work so it could feature in their new Edwardian Street. Jimmy Berry, who was a Gypsy man himself, was commissioned to restore the wagon. The wagon is in storage and we are discussing ways in which we can increase access and create new interpretation.

The second object is Dame Laura Knight’s 1953 painting, ‘Early Morning in a Gypsy Camp’, which was purchased for York Art Gallery by the Friends of York Art Gallery in 2019. Knight was known for painting life in London theatres, and for being a war artist during the Second World War. She was also greatly interested in, and inspired by, marginalised communities and individuals, including Gypsies and Travellers. In the mid-1930s Knight befriended and painted groups of Gypsies at the Epsom and Ascot racecourses. From Epsom, Knight was invited to a Gypsy settlement at Iver in Buckinghamshire. Knight visited every day for several months in the late 1930s. The exhibition will include a reproduction of Knight’s painting.

Violet Cannon, Director of York Travellers Trust said: “York Travellers Trust are delighted to have worked with York Museums Trust on this exhibition. We hope that this celebration of Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month is a step towards a truly inclusive and welcoming museum for all and that those who attend appreciate and enjoy the information within the exhibition. YTT worked with our families to try and share a little insight into their hidden and often misunderstood lives. Families of York’s largest and oldest ethnic minority have allowed us to share their intimate family photos and stories. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the exhibition.”

‘Celebrating York’s Gypsy and Traveller Heritage’ will open on 27 May 2023 and is included in general admission to York Castle Museum. For further information on the exhibition, events and to book tickets, please visit www.yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk.