Huddersfield’s First World War Stories is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and will run until 2018.
It uncovers the origins of Tolson Museum through the unique story of Legh Tolson and of his two young nephews who were killed in the war.
Legh Tolson gave his home at Ravensknowle to the people of Huddersfield in 1920 so it could become The Tolson Memorial Museum in memory of his nephews.
A short film, made especially for the exhibition, delves deeper into the history of the Tolsons.
Entitled: Loss and Legacy: The Tolson Story, the film dramatically depicts the Tolson brothers’ tragic wartime experiences fighting on the Western Front.
The remarkable stories have been brought to life by film makers Glass Cannon and are based on an exceptional collection of original letters, kindly loaned to the museum by descendants of the Tolson family.
The exhibition also explores how Huddersfield men, women and children responded to the outbreak of war in 1914.
It tells of the thousands of men who joined up between 1914 and 1918 to face the horrors of the front line, as well as those who resisted the call to arms.
Visitors will be able to find out what life was like for soldiers fighting on the Western Front, discover what life was like on the Home Front and how local buildings were transformed into War Hospitals.
Legh Tolson wanted the museum to honour not just his nephews but to become a memorial for everyone in Huddersfield who had given their life in the First World War.
Yesterday (Sun), 30 members of the Tolson family aged from two to 77-years-old and from all over the country gathered to see the exhibition.
Jonathan Huntriss Tolson, 75, of Somerset, said: “My grandfather was Gerald Tolson.
“He was called up but was discharged because he was stone deaf. He had three sons and we are all descended from them.
“And it was my older brother David from Hampshire who did the research eight or nine years ago on which this very moving film is based.”
He added that there was a “great anxiety” in the family over the future of the museum given the scale of the financial cutbacks Kirklees Council faces.
Mr Huntriss Tolson said: “This is a great concern. We believe it’s very important that it keeps up its momentum. We really do want it to keep going.”
Clr Peter O’Neill, Kirklees Cabinet Member for Communities and Leisure, said: “Tolson Museum is a significant War Memorial, the largest in Kirklees, possibly in Yorkshire.
“It is a pleasure in this First World War centenary year to be able to tell the moving story of the origins of the museum and Huddersfield’s contribution to the war effort.”
Lisa Power, from film company Glass Cannon, said: “We were thrilled to work on this project.
“For us, Tolson’s story came to embody the bravery and tragedy of a generation. The profound impact of the First World War is felt by every character in the film.
“We really wanted to bring these people to life from the pages of their letters and diaries.
“You would usually imagine a ‘stiff upper lip’ being exhibited in correspondence during this period but what we read were letters filled with profound emotion and spirit.”