Sheffield museums reveal merger plan

Museums Sheffield and Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust will become one organisation on 1 April 2021
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Simon Stephens
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Kim Streets of Museums Sheffield (left) and Fiona Elliott of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust at Kelham Island Museum
Kim Streets of Museums Sheffield (left) and Fiona Elliott of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust at Kelham Island Museum

Museums Sheffield and Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust have announced plans to merge.

A charitable trust will be created in spring next year and will be responsible for Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, Kelham Island Museum, Shepherd Wheel Workshop, Graves Gallery, Millennium Gallery and Weston Park Museum.

The new charity will see the city’s historic and cultural collections, which span industrial and social history through to natural science and visual art, reunited after 25 years. The collections were previously managed together by Sheffield City Council prior to the formation of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust and Museums Sheffield in the 1990s.

“There will be major benefits to audiences as it will give us the opportunity to tell a fuller story of the city’s history and we will be able to look across the breadth of the collections,” says Kim Streets, the chief executive of Museums Sheffield. “There is strength in numbers and we will be able to pool a huge amount of talent, expertise and understanding of the city and the collections.”

Streets also says the merger of the two organisations will help with funding applications, with all of the sites needing investment to improve what they offer.

“Museums play a vital role in society; they help us learn where we’ve come from, recognise who we are today and imagine what our shared future might look like,” says Fiona Elliott, the interim director of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust. “Sheffield is no exception – by uniting the museums, we hope the people of Sheffield and visitors to the city will have an even greater chance to find inspiration in the innovation and heritage that the museums celebrate and the new stories they will be able to tell together.”

Over the past three years Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust and Museums Sheffield, supported by Arts Council England, have worked together on a range of initiatives. These have included sharing collections for exhibition and display, the development of new volunteering opportunities, a programme of sessions for people living with dementia and their carers and joint learning activities.

The new trust will come into effect on from 1 April 2021. An interim board is already in place, led by chair Neil MacDonald.

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“The trustees of both organisations agreed that a new united trust will greatly strengthen the city’s museums and galleries,” says MacDonald. “In light of the significant impact Covid-19 has had on cultural organisations across the country, this is more important now than ever.”

The formation of the new trust has been welcomed by Sheffield City Council, the primary funder of both organisations.

Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust and Museums Sheffield have both been working on reopening plans following the easing of lockdown restrictions last month. Kelham Island Museum reopened for visitors on 10 August, while the Millennium Gallery and Weston Park Museum will reopen on 17 August, with Graves Gallery expected to follow shortly after.

Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust was created in 1994 and cares for three sites: Kelham Island Museum, Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet and Shepherd Wheel Workshop.

Museums Sheffield was established in 1998 and looks after the Millennium Gallery, Graves Gallery and Weston Park Museum.

Museums Sheffield has 83 staff (turnover in 2018-19 was £3,534,000), while Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust has 33 staff (turnover in 2018-19 was £1,076,000).

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