Leading Museums Sheffield forward

Apr 19 2012

‘When I was a kid growing up in Selby I took my little sister on a day trip to York and we ‘did’ the museums. The two things I remember are getting lost and the dungeons at York Castle Museum. Dick Turpin’s cell frightened me to death but the museum had me hooked and showed me that there was more to my world. Museums opened my eyes and helped me to imagine a future of possibilities. In taking up the role of Chief Executive at Museums Sheffield, I want to make sure that the city’s museums and galleries continue to provide access to a wealth of knowledge and be a source inspiration for the people of the city.

I came to Sheffield in 1986, to study History at the Poly’ and like thousands of others I loved the city, made lots of friends and decided to stay. I was lucky enough to get work researching the history of the Globe Works and through that secured voluntary work at Kelham Island Museum.  In 1991 I got my dream job as Curator of Social History with Sheffield’s museums and gallery service, then run by the Council.  During those years I worked with many people in Sheffield to tell their stories through the things that were precious to them.

After 21 years working within the museums service, which became an independent Trust in 1998, I became CEO this week.  When I joined we had no money, a small team and the prospect of year on year cuts – we are in a similar position today but then, as now, we managed to do great things with the resources we had.  At that time it was hard to imagine a future where Weston Park museum would be redeveloped and we would play host to shows like Vivienne Westwood and Tate Sculpture. What we had back then was a commitment from staff to make our museums the best they could be; we had a vision and together with the City we made it happen.  We have come a long way and we want to build on that passion, creativity and knowledge to deliver an excellent, value for money service.

                                      Young visitors enjoy the newly re-displayed Treasures gallery at Weston Park museum, made possible
                                      thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding.

Sheffield deserves the very best museum service – we should all be inspired by what we do; by the city, its people and their collections.  Our culture is part and parcel of the city: it shapes our sense of identity and purpose, inspires creativity and innovation and improves our quality of life.

I want Museums Sheffield to be a resilient service that makes a great contribution to the cultural life of the city.  Financial resilience is important and we need to work very closely with Sheffield City Council over the coming months to arrive at a viable funding agreement for the next few years.  I’m under no illusion about the financial challenges facing the Council but we need to work together to achieve the very best museum service for Sheffield. We must strengthen our foundations and develop our partnerships with colleagues in our sector, the city’s Universities, and the business community.  We will consolidate the position of Sheffield’s museums and galleries as vital assets in a culturally vibrant, forward-looking city.

We have an opportunity now for change; to find new ways of thinking and to recover our sense of purpose.  Knowing what we have done and can do makes me feel proud and excited about the future’. 


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