Last chance to see much-loved exhibition at Sheffield museum, ahead of big changes

One of Sheffield's best-loved exhibitions is to close, to make way for an exciting new display.

Tuesday, 27th August 2019, 15:59 pm

For 13 years, the Arctic World gallery has enlightened and entertained visitors to Weston Park Museum - fuelling the imaginations of a generation of youngsters.

It is set to close for good this Sunday, September 1, which is the last day people will be able to see it, before being replaced by a new Ancient Egypt display in which the museum's mummies will take centre stage.

In another big change, the Treasures exhibition beside Arctic World will become Sheffield Stories - using often ordinary objects to tell the extraordinary tales of everyday folk from around Sheffield and paint a picture of the city's evolution.

Glazed rosette tiles from the palace of King Ramses III at Tell Yahudiya, dated from around 1186-1155 BC (pic: Museums Sheffield)

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Sian Brown, Museums Sheffield's head of collections, said the changes would make the spaces more flexible, enabling the venue to showcase more of its treasure trove of artefacts and better reflect what people want to see.

"Arctic World has been a very popular exhibition, which is showing in how tired it now looks, but it hasn't got that much of our collection on display," she said.

"We want to create a display which is really rich with artefacts from our collection. We have a fantastic collection, with tens of thousands of items in store, but it doesn't get shown to its full potential at the moment.

Snowy the Polar Bear, who is moving to a new home in the museum's What on Earth gallery (pic: Museums Sheffield)

"The Ancient Egyptian collection is one of our most popular, and it's the most popular by far with school groups.

"We're very lucky to have two mummies, which are quite unique in terms of how much we know about who they were, and the larger one will be right in the middle of the new exhibition.

"The new gallery will have family friendly elements like Arctic World, such as cosy corners where you can read with your children, and interactive exhibits. There will be things to engage visitors of all ages."

The Ancient Egypt gallery is expected to open in February 2020, and the Treasures display is set to close in November, with Sheffield Stories opening in March next year, in time for the Easter holidays.

This coffin of a mummified ancient Egyptian woman called Nesitanebetasheru will be at the heart of the new gallery (pic: Museums Sheffield)

The changes were made possible thanks to a £187,000 grant from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund, coupled with money from the museum's supporters.

Fans of Snowy the Polar Bear need not despair, as she will be making the short journey to the museum's What on Earth gallery.

Sheffield Stories will reflect people's experience of life in Sheffield, with the first exhibition - focusing on the 1950s, 60s and 70s - being created in partnership with community groups in Gleadless and elsewhere in the city's south east.

"It's a great chance for us to work more collaboratively with the people of the city to explore the collections that belong to them and tell their stories," said Ms Brown.

A young visitor building the igloo in the Arctic World gallery at Weston Park Museum (pic: Museums Sheffield)

"My colleagues have been talking to people, hearing their memories of that period and asking if they have any items they're happy to lend which help tell their stories or whether there's anything from our collection they want to see on display.

"The idea is that the gallery will change every few years to help us get more of our collection on display and reflect what people are interested in, which we haven't necessarily been able to do so easily in the past."

Fragment of ancient Egyptian coffin showing Anubis, the jackal-headed god associated with the afterlife (pic: Hazel Drummond/Museums Sheffield)
An Ancient Egypt gallery will replace the Arctic World exhibition at Weston Park Museum - but don't worry, Snowy the Polar Bear will be getting a new home within the venue (pics: Museums Sheffield)