Project Details
Ruskin at Walkley restores links between the Ruskin Collection -- currently exhibited at Sheffield’s Ruskin Collection -- and its original setting, a modest cottage in the Sheffield suburb of Walkley.

The Ruskin Collection is curated by Museums Sheffield. It consists of over 900 paintings, 6300 ornithological prints, and 30 plastercasts. This project offers a visual and intuitive way of exploring an illustrative sample.

Visitors can navigate a series of interactive pages, evoking the way that one might move between the rooms of a physical museum. Most emphasis is placed on the exhibits that are visible in surviving photographs of the Museum interior. These are accompanied by captions and modern museum-quality images.

There are several advantages to presenting items in this way:

  • It reminds visitors of the original curatorial scheme, in which copies of works held elsewhere were hung alongside valuable originals;

  • highlights the museum's unconventional layout: a photograph of the room in the original cottage ('Interior') shows a layout that seems strikingly domestic and casual to modern eyes;

  • registers the role of Ruskin’s museum furniture, which worked to display objects at the same time as preserving them;

  • enables visitors to visualize the views and environment that Ruskin considered central to his experiment in promoting ‘the liberal education of the artizan’ (Works, 30, p. 39).

Ruskin at Walkley exhibits the Collection less as an assemblage of Ruskinian objects than as a functional whole: in effect, the remnant of an experimental museum.

Funded by a grant awarded by the University of Sheffield’s ‘Knowledge Transfer Project Fund’, the project involved formal collaboration between the University and the owners of the Collection, the Guild of St George.

Museums Sheffield also played a major role, providing photographic material and curatorial expertise. The award covered the cost of web design; it also funded photography and the purchase of a computer, to provide access to the website from the physical space of the Ruskin Gallery.

The project forms the first stage of further work on the St George’s Museum at Walkley, providing a foundation for published research and additional funding bids.

Future directions may include:

  • digitization of the museum’s visitor books: this would allow for detailed analysis of the visitor demographic;

  • exploration of how the furniture, which Ruskin designed for the museum, functioned;

  • exploration of the Collection's connection with Venice, in particular the implications of storing copies of Venetian art treasures and buildings in an English industrial city.

For an illustrated account of Ruskin at Walkley, written by the Project Leader, see:

Marcus Waithe, Ruskin at Walkley: An Illustrated Guide to the Online Museum (Bembridge, Isle of Wight: Guild of St George, 2011)

NB A copy of this publication is available for £8 (Postage within UK, please add £1.00 per item; additional postage overseas, please add £1.00) from Norman Hobbs, The Guild Secretary, Clove Cottage, Mitten Road, Bembridge, Isle of Wight P035 5UP, United Kingdom. Cheques payable to the Guild of St George

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Supported by:
The Universityof Sheffield
Museums Sheffield
The Universityof of Cambridge
Guild of St George