Friends First – Ruskin Gallery Renovations at Millennium Gallery

The Ruskin Gallery © Sheffield Museums

The Ruskin Collection has had a refresh! As a Friend, we wanted you to be the first to find out more about some the changes you can expect to see on your next visit. Here’s Ashley Gallant, Curator of the Ruskin Collection, to tell you more:

During September and October, we were busy refreshing and refurbishing the Ruskin Collection displays at the Millennium Gallery. Our aim was to create a space that sees the collection shine, and one that’s flexible, making it easier for us to change the works of art on display. There are some big changes which you’ll spot straightaway, as well as some important ones you might not notice, but that are just as significant.

Building walls in the Ruskin Gallery

One of the first things you’ll see when you enter the space is that the carpet has been taken up in the entrance area and the curved entrance walls have been replaced. The gallery has also been totally repainted, and some parts even wallpapered – more on that below.

But alongside these obvious changes there are some other crucial improvements – key amongst those is installing special film onto the windows to better protect the light sensitive objects by blocking out even more harmful bright light.

Ruskin exterior

Alongside these physical changes, we’ve also redesigned the interpretation and activities in the space. Some of the highlights of the redisplay are the introduction of new intricate wallpaper by created by the acclaimed designers Timorous Beasties, which is inspired by the Ruskin Collection, a dazzling new mineral display case, and a digital display that allows you to view more of the books in the collection. The Ruskin Collection contains some incredibly beautiful and rare objects; wonderful paintings of Venice, stunning illustrations of the natural world and many rare books, and we’re excited to be displaying more from the Collection.

Ruskin wallpaper

Ruskin’s aim was always for this collection to inspire its visitors to take action, and for it to be relevant to their lives. He chose Walkley as the location for his first museum, and the original home of the collection, so that Sheffield’s workers could ascend out of the smoke of the city and be encouraged to take advantage of the natural scenery. Encouraged by the views over the Rivelin Valley, Ruskin wanted the museum visitors to go out into the countryside and bask in the natural beauty.

American Barn Own, 1833, John James Audubon, 1785 - 1851, Collection of the Guild of St George, Museums Sheffield

Using the Collection as Ruskin intended – for inspiration and wonder, and to encourage reflection and action – the first major display is of ornithological works from the collection. Taking Ruskin’s ideas around conservation, we discuss the relevance of these bird images today through the new interpretation. To that end, we’ve worked with birding groups in the city, volunteers and conservation charities to produce the labels that accompany the objects, including information on the bird’s conservation and endangerment status, personal memories, and links to local sites where these birds are visible in the wild.

As a place of inspiration, the refreshed space now has a larger amount of wall space for temporary displays and more room for active participation such as drawing activities. We can’t wait for you to see the revitalised gallery, which is now open at the Millennium Gallery.

Images (top to bottom): 

  • The Ruskin Gallery © Sheffield Museums
  • Building new walls in the Ruskin Gallery © Sheffield Museums
  • Exterior shot of the Ruskin Gallery © Sheffield Museums
  • Wallpapering in the Ruskin Gallery entrance © Sheffield Museums
  • American Barn Own, 1833, John James Audubon (1785 - 1851) Collection of the Guild of St George, Sheffield Museums


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