I felt lucky indeed to be taking out the wonderful handling collection – Britannia Metal, Old Sheffield Plate, Stainless Steel – to groups of elders and people with learning disabilities in and around Sheffield. With Museums Sheffield educators, I visited eleven residential homes, sheltered housing schemes, day centres and community groups – exploring, quizzing, chatting, reminiscing and writing as we went.
A generation brought up with “things for best” and Sundays polishing the silver really appreciated being given the opportunity to handle and explore the objects. Along the way we met at least one person in each group who had worked in the Sheffield cutlery industries and who was able to become the expert in explaining processes and products. One woman with learning disabilities was found to rival the curators in her knowledge of many of the objects – that’s what a steady diet of Antiques Roadshow and Deal or no Deal can do for you!
People with dementia – some with little speech – were still able to take part, handle and respond, as were people with limited sight.
One group even responded poetically:
Too beautiful by Angela Robinson
A handle of two narrow strips like a question mark.
What am I? What do I hold?
Shaped like an orb resting on clawed feet,
I am serene, elegant on my pedestal,
a fluted dome, a hinged lid, space for a spoon
sitting proud on the table at the dinner party.
Once I had an inner lining made of glass,
but still I am too beautiful for mustard.
Apr 14 2011