May 14, 2021, by Kathryn Steenson

Florence Nightingale Returns

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re sure that Florence Nightingale of all people would understand why we had to delay opening the exhibition in her honour due to an outbreak of a deadly disease.

Extract from a letter showing Florence Nightingale's signature‘Florence Nightingale Comes Home’ was supposed to open last May to coincide with her 200th birthday, part of a series of events across the East Midlands, and focused on  her efforts during the Crimean War and her famous work to improve sanitary conditions in homes and in hospitals. Letters and diaries written by military surgeons, soldiers and politicians, showed how she was viewed by those intimately involved in the Crimean conflict. Nightingale’s story captured the public’s heart, and her ‘quiet and rural’ family home in Derbyshire became a magnet for autograph hunters and sightseers, and commemorative figurines, poems composed in her honour, and contemporary celebrations of her work were all on display.

And then we had to take everything down. As the restrictions continued and staff weren’t allowed into the gallery, we decided that it was better for the original items to be taken back to our climate controlled store.

Empty display cases in a dimly-lit gallery

The Weston Gallery as we left it last year.

Some of the celebrations were moved online instead. Experts recorded videos for us to recreate the programme of events that was planned, and we created a virtual exhibition with some of the exhibition boards and images of items that were supposed to be on display.

But nothing beats a proper physical exhibition in a physical gallery, and so we’re thrilled to be able to reopen from next week. Yesterday we were in the Gallery, putting the items back into display cases and rehanging the display boards.

Woman bending into an open display case, looking at her notes and the captions for the case.

Deja vu: Archive Assistant Jayne putting the captions back into one of the cases.

‘Florence Nightingale Comes Home’ opens at Lakeside Arts on the 20th May. We’re hoping it will run until 5th September, but if this last year has taught us anything, it’s to be cautions about announcing future plans.

The Weston Gallery will be open four days a week, Thursday to Sunday from 12 noon until 4pm. Entry is free and tickets can be booked online and will be emailed to you. We are offering timed entry slots as the number of people allowed in the Gallery is limited to allow for social distancing.

Small figurine of Florence Nightingale partially wrapped in tissue paper to protect her

Even the Lady of the Lamp herself needed a little bandaging.

Other coronavirus restrictions – one way systems, hand sanitiser, trace and trace, and mandatory face coverings (unless you are exempt) – will all be in place as well. The toilets and cafe on site are open. More information about how Lakeside is reopening and the ‘Florence Nightingale Comes Home’ exhibition is on the Lakeside Arts website. If you have any questions or need help to book, please email

Posted in Exhibitions