The Art of Protest

Feb 12 2016

Social History Curatorial Intern Olivia Froment talks about her work behind the scenes with our collections:

In May last year I began a curatorial internship with the Social History department at Museums Sheffield. Having previously volunteered within the archaeology department I was already aware of all of the amazing objects that Museums Sheffield look after, however I was especially excited at the prospect of working with the social history collection. I’m really interested in British twentieth century social history, so this collection for me was full of the most fascinating stories. Made up of around 25,000 objects which represent Sheffield, and more importantly the residents of Sheffield, this collection is where the seemingly mundane and ordinary come alive with the rich tapestry of Sheffield’s past.

Example of protest poster going on displaySomeone asked me recently what the average day in the curatorial team looked like, and I wasn’t quite sure where to start! My jobs have included cataloguing, photographing, packing and storage of newly acquired objects, as well as researching objects already within the collection and some conversation cleaning of objects for display.

By far the most intriguing and exciting aspect of my role has been taking in donations of objects for the collection. As part of this I get to meet with the donors, look at their objects with them, and uncover the amazing stories behind these objects that are so precious to them. Since starting I have accepted a great variety of objects, including a pair of 1930s roller-skates, a receipt for The Tontine Inn, homemade hats, a dress, a vinyl record, a Sony Walkman cassette player, a first aid box from the railway and instruction manuals, amongst other things.

One of the donations I took in during the summer was a collection of around 60 posters, stickers and badges collected by a Sheffield teenager during the 1980s. These relate to a number of different protests and causes from that period, including the miners’ strike, apartheid, anti-nuclear and anti-rate capping. The donor of this collection had taken part in a number of marches, as well as selling stickers and badges to help promote these causes. This collection has been my favourite new acquisition so far, and this year I get to share it with everyone in Sheffield, as 10 of the posters have been selected for display as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘A Bright Future’ project at Weston Park Museum.

In order to get the posters ready for their new starring role they have been lovingly repaired by a conservator, mending tears and removing Blu Tac. Many of the posters were produced by the campaign office of the local council, and the most interesting thing about them is how easily the posters still relate to life today, and the causes that people still care about and protest for. There are also a few familiar Sheffield sites to be spotted, such as The Leadmill hosting anti-rate capping charity gigs, and the hole in the road acting as the setting for a city wide litter campaign.

I hope visitors enjoy seeing the new display of protest posers, and feel proud that Sheffield has always been a city that cares and takes action, as much today and as it did then.

See the protest posters on display this summer as part of our Bright Future redevelopment project at Weston Park.



Top: Social History Curatorial Intern Olivia Froment preparing poster for display. Image © Museums Sheffield
Bottom: Example of one of the protest posters going on display at Weston Park. Image © Museums Sheffield 




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