Sharing Sheffield’s artworks through the post with Museums by Mail

Volunteer Irene writing messages on a selection of postcardsVolunteer Irene writing messages on a selection of postcards
Volunteer Irene writing messages on a selection of postcards
If Sheffield can’t come to its museums and galleries, then we’ll bring the art to you. That was the approach of bosses at Sheffield Museums Trust with an innovative scheme to spread cheer during lockdown.

As well as making their collections, exhibitions and events available online during the pandemic, the trust has launched an innovative new project to bring the city’s museums to even more people during this challenging time.

Museums by Mail has been developed to share the city’s collections with people in Sheffield through the post. Postcards featuring artworks have been sent to people across the city - particularly to elderly people and those in residential homes, who may have been feeling especially isolated.

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Since the project launched at the end of last year Sheffield Museum’s community of volunteers have spent hours writing hundreds of unique, personalised messages on the postcards - goodwill wishes, personal memories, interesting insights about the artworks, and even lines of poetry!

Jess Shipton, Public Programme Coordinator at Sheffield Museums Trust said: “It’s been so lovely seeing all the messages that have been written and I’m really grateful to all our wonderful volunteers who have got involved. It’s a small gesture but we feel that there is something special about receiving post with a personal message that someone has taken the time to write, and we hope the recipients enjoy seeing the artworks too. Everyone who receives a postcard is welcome to write back – I enjoy reading the replies we get!”

Sheffield Museums Trust has already had a fantastic response to the initiative.

Tammy Wilson, who manages the pen pal scheme at Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care, said: “This year has really exacerbated loneliness in older people. Where before, our service users were able to have weekly friendly visits from our volunteers, the pandemic put a sharp halt to this. The cards from Sheffield Museums Trust were just beautiful and have brightened the day of many a lonely older person. Many have displayed them on their fridge or wall, it makes isolated people happy just to know someone is thinking of them.”

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Gillian Kearney, Voluntary Sector Liaison Team, Sheffield City Council said: “Postcards and handwritten messages were very much appreciated by our lunch club members and many took the opportunity to write back to Sheffield Museums Trust with their thanks. What might seem a small gesture of kindness played a big part in reminding people that they hadn’t been forgotten and were still connected to their community”.

Irene, a Sheffield Museums Trust volunteer, said: “I added information about the painting to the postcards I wrote, but I also expressed my feelings and thoughts about the artwork and tried to encourage people to think and reflect about ideas. There is one artwork in which I saw something totally different from what the artwork is meant to be, so I included an interactive survey with two options for the person to tick, to see if anyone agreed with me or if I need to check my vision! With one of them I went a bit off track and proposed a game for the recipient - I hope the person has fun!”

Sheffield Museums Trust has worked with several local organisations to distribute the postcards, including Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care, Sheffield Carers, Disability Sheffield, Sheffcare and Sheffield’s network of lunch clubs.

As a charity Sheffield Museums Trust relies on donations to make it possible to continue to deliver projects like Museums by Mail during this difficult time. Donations can be made to support their work here:

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