Museums Sheffield and Mather & Co. unveil a new home for the city’s Metalwork Collection

Museums Sheffield’s internationally-renowned Metalwork Collection is set to reopen to the public this week following a major programme of redevelopment. The £300,000 refurbishment project has completely transformed the Metalwork Collection displays, which are housed in the Millennium Gallery.

The four month redevelopment programme has been assigned to Mather & Co who drove the total redesign of the gallery space providing a dazzling new showcase for the Collection.

Chris Mather, Managing Director at Mather & Co. said:

“Sheffield’s Metalwork Collection is rich in national and historical significance. Comprising over 13,000 artefacts, it was important to capture the incredible skill and craftsmanship of the pieces and reflect this in the design. We wanted to construct a fitting tribute to past British metalworkers as well as incorporating cutting-edge contemporary designs by new and emerging talents. Finding this balance and showcasing such a large number relics was a challenging project but working closely with Museums Sheffield in the development process has made this design a tremendous success.”

DCMS/Wolfson Museums Improvement Fund also supported the project along with a number of trusts, foundations and organisations. The gallery has been completely reconfigured introducing flexible new display cases and lighting, which enables more of the collection to be shared with the public.

The city’s Metalwork Collection is cared for by Museums Sheffield and is thought to be the most extensive grouping of Sheffield-made cutlery, flatware (forks and spoons) and holloware (bowls, teapots, containers) in existence. The Collection was awarded Designated Status by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport in 1999 in recognition of its outstanding national and historical significance.

Visitors to the new displays will discover a vast variety of work from the Collection, from ornate historic pieces to examples showcasing the skills of the makers and manufacturers working in the city today. Highlights will include a pair of large decorative 19th century silver and gilt exhibition scissors made by Frederick Ward & Company and an innovative Old Sheffield Plate tea and coffee machine made by Daniel Holy, Wilkinson & Company and Roberts, Cadman and Co, Sheffield from 1797. Amongst the returning visitor favourites will be the popular Old Sheffield Plate turtle soup tureen dating from around 1800 and a 22 carat gold and enamel cup created in 1929 by Helena Ibbotson, described at the time as “undoubtedly the best enameller in Sheffield.”

A wide range of objects will represent the remarkable craftsmanship of contemporary makers, including sterling silver candelabra (2004) by award-winning silversmith Chris Knight and a sterling silver cup (2011) by Warren Martin, who won the commission as part of the annual NADFAS bursary scheme whilst studying for a BA Hons in Metalwork and Jewellery Design at Sheffield Hallam University.

The new-look gallery will also feature a changing programme of temporary exhibitions and displays, the first of which will explore the theme of World Cutlery, displaying five different cutlery collections ranging from the prehistoric to the 20th century.

Clare Starkie, Curator of Decorative Art at Museums Sheffield, said:

“Sheffield has a reputation for metalwork that is known around the globe and the Metalwork Collection is a real testament to the remarkable skill, craftsmanship and innovation that the city has become synonymous with. We’re delighted that these new displays will enable us to share much more of the collection with our visitors and really allow these wonderful objects to shine.”