Young artists will see their work on display as Worksop's historic Portland Collection reopens

The Portland Collection
The Portland Collection

A project designed to help vulnerable children is among the exhibitions, rare treasures and the art of Old Masters to be unveiled when Worksop's Harley Gallery's Portland Collection reopens on September 14.

After taking part in a unique literacy and art project, the children have created an exhibition, which will be unveiled in The Harley Gallery on the Welbeck Estate, near Worksop.
The project, a collaboration between Nottinghamshire County Council and The Harley Gallery, was designed specifically to help vulnerable children and its success was showcased during last month’s UK Literacy Association International Conference.
As part of the project, the 26 children, aged between five and 11-years-old, were given the chance to study miniature portraits that form part of a collection built up over centuries by the Dukes of Portland at Welbeck.
Dr Petula Bhojwani and Craig Wilkie, from Nottinghamshire County Council, worked with the children to help them create their own artwork, stories and digital apps inspired by the portraits.
The children were given tasks that would encourage them to read more, while also developing their literacy and creative skills by devising stories.
Now their work will be shown in The Harley Gallery and will be linked with the brand-new exhibition in The Portland Collection. The treasured miniatures, which inspired their work, will form part of the new display of fine and decorative arts within The Portland Collection, which will reopen after a transformation following the theft last November of the Portland Diamond Tiara.
The Trustees of the Harley Foundation have been overwhelmed by the extraordinary success of the storytelling project.
William Parente, chair of the Trustees, said: “In a long career in the arts and education I don’t think I have come across anything quite so imaginative, so admirable, so successful.
"The engagement of the children in their stories was quite remarkable, and the creativity and diversity of those stories wonderful to behold.”
Speaking of the success of the project, Dr Petula Bhojwani said: “Carers and teachers reported that the young people soon became absorbed in unknown worlds and created something new from something very old.
"The outcomes are stunning and the learning that has taken place is remarkable. We are grateful for The Harley Gallery’s support for the project.
"Access to a museum collection and opportunity for children to exhibit alongside has not been done before and I feel privileged to have shared news of the project with an international audience at the UK Literary Association Conference.”
Nottinghamshire’s historic Welbeck estate will reopen its Portland Collection gallery on September 14, with a fresh look and a new display of fine and decorative arts after an eight-month transformation programme.
The opening of the exhibition follows an extended closure of The Portland Collection after the theft of the collection’s Portland Tiara last November.
Over this time, the gallery has been altered with additional security measures and the new displays have been designed by Real Studios, the team behind the record-breaking ‘David Bowie Is…’ exhibition at the V&A Museum in London.
They have recreated the décor of a stately home to enable visitors to imagine how the artworks and furniture might have looked within their original setting of Welbeck Abbey
Welbeck’s historic Portland Collection was brought together over time by The Dukes of Portland and their families who have lived at the ducal estate since 1607.
The new display, ‘Men, Women and Things: A World of Worlds,’ showcases this internationally significant collection, from full-length oil paintings by great masters to one of the largest privately-owned collections of miniatures. The collection also includes books, letters, ceramics and furniture.
The family’s forward-thinking female ancestors will also form a large part of the display.
Lisa Gee, director of The Harley Gallery, said: “Our new displays have a focus on the extraordinary women in the family’s ancestry.
From the first sci-fi writer to a natural historian and a great philanthropist, strong women have a history of thriving at Welbeck.
"With rare and beautiful portraits to wonderful china and silverware the displays offer visitors the opportunity to study the wonderful treasures amassed by this single aristocratic family and shared freely with us all.”