History of the city in 10 objects

Two options are Hendos Relish and a relish jug
Two options are Hendos Relish and a relish jug
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It is a project set to cause debate, discussion and almost certainly some people asking: ‘can we include a bottle of Henderson’s Relish?’

A new city exhibition will attempt to chart the history of Sheffield in just 10 objects. It has been inspired by the hugely popular Radio Four programme which told the story of the world in 100 artefacts.

Steel products, works of art, musical items, archaeological findings and just possibly something to do with the Hole In The Road could be included in the landmark display to run at Weston Park Museum next year.

But curators want YOUR suggestions before a final list is decided.

Early nominations include everything from the medieval (a foundation stone of Manor Lodge) to the thoroughly modern – a CD by Arctic Monkeys. Industrial objects already suggested are the Bessemer Converter and the River Don Engine, while artistic items like a Dove of Peace drawn by Picasso and George Fullard’s Walking Man have also been mentioned. Sheffield achievements such as the Simplex Car, stainless steel and the world’s first football rule book, as drawn up by Sheffield FC, look likely to figure in the debate.

“One thing is certain, though,” says Amanda Wade, of the Sheffield Visual Arts group, which is behind the project. “It’s going to be hugely interesting deciding what should be included.”

It is hoped if the exhibition – supported by Sheffield University and Museums Sheffield – is a hit, it will lead to a much larger project in which 100 of the city’s most important artefacts eventually go on display in one place in 2016.

“Telling the history of a city – especially a city like Sheffield – in 10 objects is extraordinarily difficult,” says Dr Karen Harvey, reader in cultural history at Sheffield University. “But what we hope to do is give a feeling and a texture for our heritage, to celebrate it.

“This is a two-way process. It is partially about showing off some of the items in Sheffield’s public collections of artefacts but also about asking people to come forward and suggest objects which they think make the city special. That could be a building, it could be something they see or use every day or it could even be an object they 
have at home which they think tells a story the city should know.”

Suggestions already made include pocket knives, grinders wheels and the Paternoster lift at the Arts Tower. “Although there might be some logistical problems getting that to an exhibition,” admits Claire Starkie, curator of decorative arts at Museums Sheffield.

Organisers have already held a series of pop-up events in which the public were asked to nominate suggestions. Several more will take place before volunteers are asked to join a steering group to decide on the final 10 next spring. The exhibition will run for six months from May 10.

“If it goes well, we would love to do this on a bigger scale of 100 objects,” says Sian Brown, curatorial services manager with Museums Sheffield. “That would be a huge undertaking and need significant funding but we’re sure it would be popular.”

To get involved, visit www.sheffield100objects.org

What object do you think should be included? Email colin.drury@thestar.co.uk or Tweet: @colin_ _drury

My View by Colin Drury

THE first problem with trying to tell the history of a city in 10 objects, of course, is that it’s impossible. Hundreds of years and thousands of heartbeats can’t be hammered down to two handfuls of artefacts.

The second problem is the realisation that, since this is Sheffield, you probably only really have nine spaces up for grabs – a bottle of Henderson’s (ONE) being an automatic inclusion unless you want rioting in the streets.

But once you’ve acknowledged those issues and decided it would be kind of funto do anyway, where do you begin?

Perhaps by gathering a crack team of assorted experts to discuss and debate what might make the list. Except The Star didn’t want to pre-empt the current public consultation. So, I was asked to mouth off instead.

Here goes: a foundation stone from Sheffield Castle (TWO), has to be there, doesn’t it? You include that and you touch on the mediaeval growth of Sheffield, the English Civil War and the home (aka prison) of Mary Queen Of Scots, the only major royal to ever live here. You also – controversial! – get to tell the story of the markets that replaced it.

By the same token you need something 21st century, I reckon. A record by the Arctic Monkeys (THREE) could represent both Sheffield’s incredible musical heritage and her modern culture.

Obviously, you need some steel stuff in there. The Bessemer Converter (FOUR) might take some moving but there’s probably no invention more key to Sheffield’s history. A grinding wheel (FIVE), and maybe a set of cutlery (SIX) would be appropriate as well.

Football. The world’s most popular pastime was invented here. If that’s not worth celebrating, call me an egg chaser. Sheffield FC (SEVEN) – the world’s oldest club – could produce something no doubt.

Three left? Phew. Creativity has a place, doesn’t it? Put n artwork in (EIGHT) in. Who by? Take your pick: Frederick Varley, Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey, George Fullard. I like the classics though. That’s why I’d go with a Pete McKee.

Poetry too. Words are the world. I want Corn Law Rhymer Ebenezer Elliott’s statue (NINE) on my list. And talking of statues, what about those sumo wrestlers at Weston Park. Brought back from the Far East 100 years ago and amusing/scaring our children ever since. That’s got to be worth number TEN.


Excuse me? You don’t agree? You think the Sheffield-Simplex Car? An early book from the university, surgical equipment used at The Children’s Hospital, the entire Wicker Arches, a canal boat, a copy of The Star, a photo from the Blitz, Arnold Loosemore’s Victorian Cross, Helen Sharman’s astronaut helmet, a chunk from Don Valley Stadium, Picasso’s doves, a Bassett’s allsort…

Ah well, maybe you’re right. But then that’s the fun, isn’t it? Let the debate begin.