Kelham Island's industrial resurrection celebrated in Museums Sheffield triumph

By Culture24 Staff Published: 22 September 2010

A photo of a group of people in front of a sign saying made in sheffield
The Kelham Island Museum redisplay team, pictured during the period after the museum was wrecked by flooding
In June 2007, the cogs and wheels of Sheffield's industrial past, stored inside Kelham Island Museum, were flooded.

Oil spilled out of the machines and coated the entire space, leaving every object needing cleaning and conserving. The contaminated infrastructure of the museum had to be ripped out and destroyed, and the mighty River Don Engine had to be rebuilt and restored for the first time in 25 years.

More than three years on, the £1.4 million resurrection – created in an ambitious project, Towards the New Kelham – has won commendation and full accreditation from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

A photo of a man standing in front of industrial items in a museum
John Hamshere, the Chief Executive of Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust
"It is incredibly important to us," says John Hamshere, the Chief Executive Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust. "It recognises the quality of what we do, but also acknowledges that we have done this during a very difficult time."

A swiftly-laid new car park allowed the museum to resume its schools programme just two months after the disaster, and a Victorian Christmas Market the following Christmas hosted a public consultation about the look of the new galleries.

After reaching final settlement with their insurers in January 2008, Kelham was officially reopened in May 2009, and these days it also boasts a brand new gallery.

A photo of two men in suits being shown industrial exhibits in a museum by a craftsman
The Duke of Gloucester (centre) enjoys the official reopening of Kelham in May 2009
"At the same time as we were trying to recover from the flood over the summer of 2007, we wrote a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the new gallery for the Hawley Collection, and were successful with a grant of £595,000 towards a £700,000 project," explains Hamshere.

"That gallery opened in March this year, so we went straight from rebuilding Kelham to increasing it in size by a third."

Alex Pettifer, the Chairman of the Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust, says the success of Kelham justifies all the hard work. "When I recall what it was like full of mud and oil, it is wonderful to see the place filled with families and children, as it has been this summer," he reflects.

"The Commendation is clear national recognition of the Trust's resolve to rebuild Kelham and recognises the determination and hard work of the staff, volunteers and all those who helped to actually make it happen."
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