Community Project with Museums Sheffield
Arts Enterprise funded project ‘Art & Craft in Sheffield: Our History in 100 Objects’
Exhibition display: 10 May 2014 – mid-October 2014, Weston Park Museum, free entry
A community-led engagement project about the history of Sheffield, art and material culture is gaining momentum.
Supported by the Faculty’s Arts Enterprise fund, the project is a collaboration between the voluntary members of the Sheffield Visual Arts Group (SVAG), Museums Sheffield and staff in the departments of Archaeology and History. Work began in summer 2013 and the project has now entered its intensive phase, taking groups with little history of engagement with museum collections into Museums Sheffield’s stores. The project will conclude with a display in Weston Park Museum.
The project originated within SVAG, which campaigns for more imaginative and open access to the city’s rich collections of art and craft. They wanted to engage a broader range of Sheffield communities using Museums Sheffield collections. Their aim to open up those collections, to inform more people about what the museums hold and the history of art and craft in Sheffield was made possible by Arts Enterprise funding in spring 2013.
A series of consultation events took place in the summer and autumn of 2013, with members of the public nominating the objects they felt reflected Sheffield’s artistic and cultural heritage. Nominations in the first round ranged from graffiti to oil paintings, from buildings to landscapes. The most common suggestion was the Peace Gardens.
Since then, further consultations at pop-up events and via social media and have produced hundreds of suggestions. These reveal fascinating stories, whether of ways in which small locally-based manufacturing companies are building on aspects of Sheffield’s heritage, the routes by which particular pieces have come into the Sheffield collections, or of people’s very personal and intimate relationships with these shared objects. People continue to engage with the project through its website, Twitter and Facebook.
The project is now entering an intensive phase of consultation. Museums Sheffield have opened up their stores to small groups from ‘hard to reach’ and interested communities. Those groups will select the objects for the final display in Weston Park, opening in May 2014. The display will represent a new history of Sheffield told through objects and curated by the public.
SVAG has been supported by Karen Harvey (History) and Bob Johnston (Archaeology), who have drawn on their expertise in material culture and the past, as well as their experience of public engagement. Carried out by PhD student Lizzie Wright (Archaeology), with support from undergraduate and postgraduate placement students in both History and Archaeology, the project represents an interdisciplinary collaboration that draws together research, engagement and teaching.
This project is conceived as a pilot. The hope is that a large exhibition in collaboration with Museums Sheffield and other collections in the city will follow.