Henry Swan was curator of the St George's Museum between 1875 and 1890. He was the first curator of the Museum, and the only curator who served at the Walkley site.
Ruskin gave an account of his arrangement with Swan in Letter 62 (February 1876) of Fors Claverigera
'I have appointed a curator to the Sheffield Museum, namely, Mr. Henry Swan, an old pupil of mine in the Working Men's College in London; and known to me since as an estimable and trustworthy person, with a salary of forty pounds a year, and residence. He is obliged at present to live in the lower rooms of the little house which is to be the nucleus of the museum:-- as soon as we can afford it, a curator's house must be built outside of it' (Works
, 28, p. 529).
Cook and Wedderburn provide a colourful description of Swan's character and qualifications:
'Henry Swan, the first curator, was very much a character, and it was impossible to visit the little Museum at Walkley without carrying away a vivid remembrance of him. He had been apprenticed to a copper-plate engraver in London, and was [...] a pupil under Ruskin at the Working Men's College. He became an adept at manuscript illumination [...] and Ruskin entrusted to him the engraving of a plate in Modern Painters.
He was a convert to Quakerism [...] Quakerism seemed to him spiritually akin to the mediaeval art which he chiefly loved. "It was difficult to imagine that he whom one saw at Sheffield trudging up the steep hills, Scotch cap on head, and coat-tails flying, whilst carrying home over his shoulder a sack of potatoes or apples (for there was "no nonsense" about him, and he was always a very active man) could at one time have been a fashionable photographer in Regent Street. Yet he had invented what was considered at the time an important improvement in photography. He was also the parent of a method of musical notation, and had perfected a system of phonetic spelling. He was one of the first to introduce the bicycle into this country, and at another time made an attempt to popularise the throwing of the boomerang as an athletic exercise.