The Cutting Edge of Sheffield Cutlery

Jul 08 2015

Project Manager Sarah Rawlins talks about her work on the Cutting Edge project and how she’s been raising the profile of Sheffield made cutlery:

For the past year I have been working as Project Manager on the Cutting Edge project at Museums Sheffield. Cutting Edge is a major initiative researching, documenting and improving access to information about the city’s extensive Sheffield made cutlery collection.

One of the main aims of the Cutting Edge project was to increase knowledge and understanding about Sheffield’s cutlery collection and to encourage people to find out more about one of the city’s key industries.

In order to promote the cutlery collection to the public as a whole, we’ve developed a training session for all Museums Sheffield’s staff and volunteers about the collection. This has been a great way to create advocates within our own staff and empower them to be able to talk to visitors’ knowledgably about the work we do outside their own specialist department.

We’ve also been working on a series of tours of the collection at our external store, specifically targeted at key groups, including local business leaders, artists, and members of Museums Sheffield’s Friends. This has been a great opportunity to showcase the collection and increase people’s understanding of our work around it, which often goes on behind the scenes, and explore how they might be able to support it in the future.

Grenoside Sword Dancers performing at the Celebrating Cutlery event. Whilst working on the Cutting Edge project we were also keen to build on the existing links we already had with our project partners; the Assay Office, the Cutlers Company, and the Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library. We’ve been collaborating with them to pool expertise, information and images on the cutlery industry and create a useful and engaging public resource. The result is the Sheffield Cutlery Map, a new online interactive which encourages visitors to think about the role the cutlery industry has had in shaping Sheffield, and to enable them to carry out their own investigations into areas that interest them.

The Sheffield Cutlery Map website includes information on Sheffield manufacturers from the 1800s through to the present day. Visitors to the site can find out more about the history of the companies and the cutlery they manufactured through objects from the collection as well as archive pictures and film. The map can be explored in our new-look Metalwork Collection displays at the Millennium Gallery as well as online, allowing people to access information about Sheffield’s collection around the world.

Throughout the project we have held a series of lunchtime talks on various aspects of the cutlery industry, including one on hallmarking from the Assay Office and another on the cutlery making process from Kelham Island Museum. These talks have been a great way to showcase other organisations in the city to our visitors, and to demonstrate the vast influence the cutlery making industry has had on Sheffield’s history.

To introduce the collection to a different audience we held our Cutting Edge: Celebrating Sheffield Cutlery fun day in collaboration with our project partners in June. This family friendly event included stalls, talks, object handling, family craft activities and even sword dancing! By engaging families we hope to inspire a new generation of museum visitors and supporters, which will continue to champion the remarkable achievements of Sheffield’s cutlery industry.

Explore the Sheffield Cutlery Map here.

Top: Project Manager Sarah Rawlins talking to a visitor at our Cutting Edge: Celebrating Sheffield Cutlery fun day. © Andy Brown
Bottom: Visitors enjoying a performance from the Grenoside Sword Dancers. © Andy Brown





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