Weston Park Museum’s main exhibitions
by Kim Streets
The Weston Park Museum development is a £17.3m project funded by Heritage Lottery, Sheffield City Council, South Yorkshire Objective One, ERDF with further support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, The H&L Cantor Trust, Sheffield Town Trust, Freshgate Trust Foundation, Sheffield Church Burgesses and Holbeche Corfield Charitable Trust.
Personal Treasures, Betty Smalley. © Carl Rose.
The Treasures display encompasses a broad range of material from all the Trust collections: from Egyptian mummies to minerals, from carved ivories to Iranian armour, from narrative paintings to domestic objects. The display aims to explore the different reasons why people treasure objects and is grouped into three themed areas – Personal, Powerful and Beautiful. This exhibition lifts the lid on the traditional museum display and questions the complexities of value. Why are some things handed down through families when others hit the charity shop or the car boot sale? How some objects make it into museum collections and others not? All tricky questions, yet rather than provide all the answers the displays seek to provoke responses, inspire thought, discussion and personal connection.
The content of these displays has evolved through a series of community projects with people from across the city. Working with creative practitioners, curators and community facilitators, participants have explored the concept of treasure using techniques in painting, drawing and sculpture. The displays offer people a platform to voice their own experience, to tell stories and share them with a wider audience. Individuals have loaned their own treasured objects – things that have been kept, that remind people of a time, place or person – things that reinforce memory and reaffirm who we are and what we know.
About Art will feature displays of paintings, sculpture and decorative art objects and aims to introduce a range of art concepts within a welcoming and comfortable space. About Art aims to inspire visitors to enjoy taking part in the works on show, to learn more about how and why art is made and to be inspired to get creative themselves.
What on Earth offers an opportunity to get closer to the world we live in with interactive displays that tap into all things natural. In this space visitors are encourages to discover prehistoric creatures and live insects, plants, rocks and minerals, from the biggest to the smallest, the backyard to the global. Visitors can discover the fun of science, investigate live insects, join the badgers underground and design a creature. Displays also feature the Weston Park weather station, which has been recording the weather for over 121 years and supplies daily readings to the Met Office. What on Earth is an exciting and engaging display space for visitors of all ages and interests. By using a combination of modern display techniques and established collections What on Earth provides a place of great fun and enjoyment for all ages, backed up with good, solid information and educational provision. Displays remind people of how wonderful the natural world is, how much they already enjoy the world around them and how they can be involved in changing it for the benefit of future generations.
Before the museum closed for refurbishment we used a questionnaire to ask families about their favourite museum object. Our female polar bear came top of the list. We then asked 100 primary aged children to draw what the bear’s room in the museum might look like and what they would like to find out about her. Their designs and questions have informed the development of Arctic World – a new family friendly space at the heart of Weston Park Museum. The displays explore everyday life in the arctic and aim to portray the contemporary experiences of arctic people rather than as a group somehow frozen in time. Key to this process has been the setting up of a partnership between Westways school in Sheffield and a school in Nanuvut, North Canada. This exchange provides a learning experience for both sets of children and adults through the sharing artefacts, photographs, pictures and letters.
Burngreave Voices is a community history project that tells the lives and stories of Burngreave people in an exceptional way. Through a programme of events and educational activities the project engages with local people to create exhibitions in community venues and Weston Park Museum, a community history publication, a website and an education pack.
The project runs between 2004 and 2007 and is delivered by 1 full time Project Officer with a team of freelance and sessional workers. The project is managed by Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust. The Project Officer is based at Burngreave Library with courses and activities run from here and at other community venues. Burngreave Voices links with other BNDfC initiatives to provide joined up opportunities for local people with community cultural events, employment and learning opportunities. The project is funded by Burngreave New Deal for Communities, Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust and Sheffield Libraries and Information Service.
Ourselves Our Place
Ourselves Our Place was an audience development project that aimed to record and celebrate the lives of people living in North East Sheffield. It was delivered by Sheffield Galleries & Museums trust and ran from October 2001 until December 2003. In this time a range of community activities took place to collect stories, photographs and objects that explored the heritage of the local people. The project offered people a chance to tell their own stories and to record the experiences and milestones that had shaped their personal identities as well as the collective lives of the community. Stories collected through the project were brought together in an exhibition at Weston Park Museum from January to March 2003 which later toured schools and community venues. Ourselves Our Place was funded through the Heritage Lottery Access Fund.
Memory Gems was a community history project that explored the experiences of members of the Kelvin Afro-Caribbean Lunch Club in response to Dressing Down, an exhibition by the artist Yinka Shonibare. Inspired by his work, the participants became curators of their own material to create a series of displays about themselves throughout Weston Park Museum. The project took place between 1999 and 2000 and was funded by Yorkshire Arts.