THE DIARY: Loads to see

Mara Nicola and Madeline Gill
Mara Nicola and Madeline Gill
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AMONG the more radical proposals were to paint the walls of Weston Park Museum psychedelic pink and have a giant crocodile skull dropping through the ceiling.

“There were a few ideas which were...imaginative,” says curator Clare Starkie. “We had to suggest some might not be entirely practical.”

Nevertheless, an exhibition created after the Sheffield museum asked 20 teenagers to organise a flagship show of global artefacts is nothing if not eclectic.

Think a Yemen telephone made from pumpkin, a Papa New Guinea dagger made from glass, and a model boat made in, um, Cornwall.

That crocodile skull is there too - although, in the end, it got displayed in a more traditional case.

It seems that youthful variety has been something of a hit.

Because six months after opening, the show - called Precious Cargos and curated as part of this summer’s nationwide Cultural Olympiad - is proving super-popular.

“The reaction has been great,” says Clare, senior curator with Museums Sheffield. “It’s the first time we’ve done this but people - especially young people - have been coming in and really engaging with it. The objects on show all have a Sheffield link - either by being donated to the city or by being brought back by missionaries - but they have come from around the world which makes it interesting.”

The idea, being replicated at 15 venues across Yorkshire, is simple enough: encourage more youngsters to visit more museums by letting young people curate.

As such, the Museums Sheffield Youth Forum was given access to the city’s 2,000 strong World Cultures collection and an entire gallery space, and told: ‘put on a show’.

“It’s been a great experience,” says Mara Nicola, an 18-year-old King Edwards VII School student of Fulwood. “Some of the artefacts are awesome. Will young people be interested? They should be.”

Among the 40 objects are a Japanese kimono presented to a 19th century city industrialist, a dagger from Papa New Guinea (“it’s Sheffield - we had to have include a knife”), and Weston Park’s perennial favourite, the Samurai sumo wrestlers. A boat was commissioned specially as a place where children could sit while being told about the exhibits.

Oh, and there’s that crocodile skull too.

“It’s an awesome story,” says Madeline Gill, 16, of Sharrow, and also a King Edwards pupil. “It was brought back here by this city explorer who the crocodile attacked,

“But when they examined its stomach contents, there was jewellery in there which suggests there had been a previous human victim. How can you not like that story?

“It ate someone.”

It is such enthusiasm, which is proving infectious - even without those pink walls.

“I’m not keen on the mushroom colour we ended up with,” says Mara. “But I agree the pink would have been too overpowering. It would have distracted from the exhibits and they’re too interesting for that.”

Precious Cargo will run until 2014.