Oct 02 2015
Ruskin Curator Louise Pullen on the art and artefacts visitors can discover in the new Ruskin Collection displays on show at the Millennium Gallery:
Six months have quickly passed and it’s all change in the Ruskin Collection again. This season's displays mark a slight change from the usual look at Ruskin's thoughts on particular aspects of art, architecture and nature. Instead, we are celebrating Ruskin's history and legacy in Sheffield in recognition of the Ruskin in Sheffield project, which has been running throughout the year. This project, initiated and sponsored by the Guild of St George (who own the Ruskin Collection) and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund has seen all sorts of activities and events take place across Sheffield but centring particularly in Walkley, Rivelin, Stannington and Totley. Look out for leaflets in the Millennium Gallery and Ruskin Collection to find out more.
Some of the new displays show the products of Ruskin in Sheffield including a fascinating study of the early museum-goers carried out by volunteers from the original Visitor Books. Also on show are some skilful works of art and craft made during the recent event, ‘Crafting the Land’-a programme carried out in partnership with the Ruskin Mill Trust's Freeman College and Growtheatre.
Most of the displays however are still drawn from the Ruskin Collection itself. The first section explores some of the original display themes put together by Ruskin and the first Curator, Henry Swan. Typically, Ruskin never fully explained what the themes meant or why particular works were shown together, but, like all displays drawn from the Collection, I have used his books and notes to piece together his plans as closely as possible - though generally making them somewhat less long-winded in their explanations!
My favourite part of the new displays takes its cue from photographs of the first museum, which was based in Walkley. We are privileged that a few of the original items of furniture, fixtures and fittings from the 1870s and 80s still exist and I've identified and fitted several works back into their original picture frames. We have also brought a beautifully carved oak cabinet back into use - but with a certain contemporary twist.
Look out too for an opulently upholstered storage-cum-display box from the 1870s. It's the items like this that rarely get seen by the public as they are not generally considered as 'museum objects'. But they are rich in social history and I think they deserve to have an audience. It has therefore, been a real thrill to bring them to life once more.
Images © Museums Sheffield and the Guild of St George.