Interview by Fran Belbin | Photo courtesy of Museums Sheffield.
Kim Streets is the Chief Executive of Museums Sheffield, and says: I’m from Selby and came to Sheffield in 1986 to do a history degree.
The first thing I remember of Sheffield was the big black walls of Forgemasters as you drive through Brightside. Pitsmoor seemed really cosmopolitan and I liked the anonymity of feeling tiny in a massive city. The friends we’ve made; great food; fantastic shops; lovely houses, parks and green spaces are all components that make me love the place. The collections in Sheffield’s museums are all about our place in the world. The origins of collections are often linked to people who have gone out and brought things back to tell a story. Living in Pitsmoor makes me think about whose stories are currently missing in those collections. Whose voices and experiences aren’t represented and how can we change that? One exhibition I worked on was called Picture This, with Richard Hanson. I did a series of interviews in the Messenger and Richard took the photographs, then we displayed the photographs and quotes alongside pictures of Sheffield. It was really nice to have the people of Pitsmoor talking about their aspirations, where they’d come from, where they lived and what they loved about the city.
In thinking about what to collect, the big question is always, “how do objects tell stories?” We don’t just collect objects for the sake of it, but because they have something to say. I did a project called Memory Gems with the Kelvin Afro-Caribbean Lunch Club, a lovely group of mainly older people. They came to the museum to meet an artist called Yinka Shonibare, which was really touching because Yinka was so respectful of them and they were so proud of him. They brought things from home to represent “memory gems”, which they remembered from being at school in the Caribbean. It made me feel really proud that the museum could bring people together.
I’d like to change people’s perceptions about our area. If you don’t know a place or you’re new, you have to get under the skin of it, and that happens because you bring your kids up there, you meet your neighbours; you eat in a particular café or shop locally, or get involved in local projects. I feel hopeful about the future of the area. You can’t be blind to the things that make it hard; there is grinding poverty and some people are having a tough time. But we can change that bit by bit. This year I’m excited about a series of exhibitions about protest and activism to mark the centenary year of the Representation of People Act 1918, when some women first got the vote. Hope is Strong explores how art can help us question and challenge our world, and includes Jeremy Deller’s work inspired by the miners’ protests at Orgreave. Changing Lives: 200 Years of People and Protest in Sheffield will look at recent movements like Women Against Pit Closures, but also further back at James Montgomery and Sam Holberry, and people who have stood up for issues they feel really passionately about.