Feb 09 2015
Sarah Rawlins, Project Manager of Museums Sheffield's new Cutting Edge initiative, on working on new ways of sharing the city's renowned cutlery collection.
‘Do you still have *such and such*?’ This is a question many of our visitors ask, hoping to see a favourite exhibit from their last visit or perhaps even from a childhood trip to one of our museums and galleries. Often custodians of large collections, museums change their display cases and exhibitions as often as space and resources allow. However, finding sustainable ways of sharing as much of these wonderful collections often as possible is an ongoing challenge.
The Metalwork collection cared for by Museums Sheffield is one of the most significant in the country, and was awarded Designated status by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for its national importance. While the collection contains examples of craftsmanship from around the world, at its core is the Sheffield cutlery collection; a record of the industry that made Sheffield famous worldwide. Many of the star items can be seen on display in the Millennium Gallery, which will open a new-look showcase for the collection later this year, or on show at Weston Park. However, as with all museums, there are many more objects in store waiting for their next opportunity to go display and their stories to be told. Thanks to support from Arts Council England, we’re working to tell more of the stories in Sheffield cutlery collection through our new project, Cutting Edge.
Cutting Edge will take advantage of the new-look Metalwork gallery’s flexible displays to show more of the collection more often, as well as hosting a series of lunchtime talks throughout May. However, the main aim of the project will take the collection beyond the confines of the gallery.
First off, we’re adding 150 examples of Sheffield cutlery to our online collection, providing access to objects that aren’t currently on display, or making them available to those who aren’t able to get to the gallery to see them in person. The primary focus of Cutting Edge though is to utilise new online technologies to explore the development of the cutlery industry in Sheffield. To this end, we’re creating a brand new interactive Sheffield Cutlery Map, highlighting some of the leading manufacturers that were established in the city from the 1800s to the present day.
The map will feature 50 key pieces of cutlery made in Sheffield, along with information on who made them and how the industry developed. New objects and makers will be continually added to make sure that the website is a valuable resource for those wanting to understand the history of the city, through its places and objects. We receive a huge number of enquiries about the city’s cutlery collection, so we hope the Cutlery Map will prove a useful tool for those wanting to explore the city’s rich metalworking history.
We will be holding a Q&A session on digitisation and the Cutting Edge project over the week beginning 9 February. You can join the discussion by posting in the blog comments below, tweeting us @MuseumSheffield, or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org - we'll make sure all the questions we receive during that week, along with the responses, are added to this blog's comments section.
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