A question of sporting excellence: Exhibitions coming to Sheffield museums include an Olympics celebration and an examination of nature in design, reports Ian Soutar

Sports Lab: The Science Behind the Medals, Weston Park Museum, Jan 29-Nov 20 2011'Computational fluid dynamics analysis of a Skeleton Bobsleigh '� Sheffield Hallam University
Sports Lab: The Science Behind the Medals, Weston Park Museum, Jan 29-Nov 20 2011'Computational fluid dynamics analysis of a Skeleton Bobsleigh '� Sheffield Hallam University
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IN pre-London Olympics year, Weston Park Museum aims to get Sheffielders in a sporting frame of mind with an exhibition running for most of 2011 which looks at the science behind our sporting champions.

Sports Lab, opening later this month, is a family-friendly exhibition co-curated by Museums Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.

Featuring examples of cutting edge sports technology and historic memorabilia, it will show just what it takes to get to the top in sport as well as showcasing a wealth of sporting icons, from a penny farthing bike to an official 2010 World Cup football, not to mention Sheffield FC’s first rule book Sports Lab has a big interactive element.

Visitors will be able to compete in a virtual cycle race around Sheffield, test their reaction speed in a Beat the Clock test, get a rider’s eye view from a skeleton bobsleigh and throw some moves on an electronic dance floor.

Sports Lab: The Science Behind the Medals runs at Weston Park Museum from January 29 to November 20.

Also opening on January 29 is Graphic Nature at the Millennium Gallery, an exhibition looking at the surprising ways in which our natural environment continues to influce the most contemporary designs.

Nature has always been a rich source of inspiration for artists and designers but it might be thought that, as our lives become increasingly urban and digitised, we have lost touch with forces and elements which once inspired awe and wonder.

The exhibition proves that nature still holds plenty of surprises, and continues to influence even the most contemporary of ideas.

Graphic Nature will showcase the work of a range of artists and designers who find their greatest influence in the environment alongside work by celebrated naturalists John Ruskin and William Morris and a number of original speciments from Sheffield’s natural history collection.

Talking of Ruskin, in March Museums Sheffield’s unique display of art and artefacts amassed by the renowned Victorian artist and scholar will reopen following a major redevelopment programme.

Housed within the Millennium Gallery, the Ruskin Collection displays are being transformed as part of a £200,000 refurbishment project.

In the spring Museums Sheffield hosts an ambitious new artwork, brought to the Millennium Gallery through the inaugural Contemporary Art Society Annual Award.

Based in the Czech Republic, Katerina Šedá produces work exploring ideas of community, memory and collective identity.

In the commission for Museums Sheffield, Líšen Profile, Šedá has worked with hundreds of Czech volunteers in a search for those individuals who best reflect the physical profile of her home town, Líšen.

The resultant 500 drawings will join the city’s visual art collection following the exhibition and will form a book which will also reveal the extraordinary process behind the artwork Established to mark the Contemporary Art Society’s centenary, the new annual award supports the commissioning of new artworks destined to join public gallery collections.

Katerina Šedá: Líšen Profile is at the Millennium Gallery from March 2 to May 30.

The Graves Gallery will host a new exhibition exploring one man’s unyielding obsession with his own mortality. The Triumph of Maximilian I by Hans Burgkmair and Others, from March 31 to August 14, will bring together a unique collection of prints commissioned in the 16th century by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian in a bid to secure his place in the chronicles of history.

The Best Kept Secret in Victorian Art is the tagline for the exhibition of the work of John Martin which rounds off the first half of the year at the Millennium Gallery.

It will bring together more than 50 creations by one of Britain’s most important 19th century painters which find their inspiration in both the Old Testament and the rugged environment of his native North East.

From apocalyptic visions to epic panoramas, the John Martin exhibition runs from June 22 to September 4.