Sheffield museum hosts packed summer programme of events perfect for a staycation

In what was billed by some as ‘Freedom Day’, coronavirus restrictions were lifted across England on Monday 19 July. Yet, with cases rising again, the situation is still far from ‘back to normal’ for heritage sites like Sheffield’s National Emergency Services Museum.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 12:00 am
Updated Monday, 2nd August 2021, 1:03 pm

For visitor attractions such as NESM the situation remains a delicate one. Museums need to balance continuing care for the safety of visitors, staff and volunteers with the need to generate some much needed income and maximise opportunities during what could be an unprecedented ‘staycation summer’.

For NESM this has meant rethinking its usual programme of events that would normally bring hundreds of visitors into the museum. Instead, it has announced a unique programme of tailored activities, talks and workshops over the coming weeks, including many being hosted museum for the very first time.

Matt Wakefield, the museum’s CEO, said: “As an independent, self-funded museum, events - whether hosted by us in the museum or that we take part in elsewhere - provide us with a valuable source of income.

Budding investigators can polish up their Victorian detective skills at the museum.

“After being closed for 14 months during the pandemic we were obviously keen to bring back our events programme as quickly as we could, but we knew the current situation meant we would have to think differently about what we could offer. But this has led us to put together a really exciting programme that is different to anything we’ve done before and, we think, offers something for everyone.”

For families planning a Yorkshire staycation this year, the museum has ensured there’s lots for youngsters of all ages to enjoy.

Getting hands-on is the order of the day at the museum's summer CSI school, Daring Detectives. This free session will allow young visitors to get to grips with some of the stories told in NESM’s newly-opened exhibition exploring the history of 19th century policing, crime and punishment.

Budding investigators can polish up their Victorian detective skills and learn about 19th century crime scene investigation. Youngsters will get hands on with sand, paint, microscopes and more, and try out methods like fingerprint analysis before attempting to crack a dastardly crime.

The pandemic meant NESM had to rethink its usual programme of summer and autumn events.

For even younger visitors, a sensory play session in August will combine stories and songs to teach under-fives about the importance of fire safety. Children can become firefighters for the day, make fire helmets and help to put out a fire with an extinguisher and hose. They’ll also learn about how to stay safe when there is a fire and what number to call.

For those interested in science and medicine, there's a rare opportunity to get hands-on with the basics of forensic anthropology under the guidance of expert Dr Chris Aris. In this session children will discover what human bones and skulls can tell a forensic scientist, including how to identify male and female skulls. There will also be a rare opportunity for children to have a go at creating their own facial reconstruction.

Then there is the welcome return of the museum’s ever-popular lifeboat tours, giving visitors the chance to jump aboard NESM's 47-foot RNLI lifeboat, explore the cabin and find out what life was like for the crew of this lifesaving vessel.

As well as activities for younger visitors, the museum is hosting a series of talks aimed at adults. Led by a roster of leading experts, they will focus on police history and crime and punishment in the 19th century. Workshops include author Neil Bell giving an insight into the life of a Victorian bobby, author and crime blogger Angela Buckley discussing some of the suspicious characters and nefarious criminals who stalked the streets and a look at early forensic science with Dr Peter Moore.

A sensory play session in August will teach under-fives about the importance of fire safety.

And, at the end of the year, the museum is bringing back its Wartime Christmas event with live music, re-enactments, living history displays and crafts.

Matt added: “We’re really excited about the events we’ve put together and hope that our visitors are too. It’s great that we can offer such a range of engaging activities.

“As we’re still taking safety very seriously, numbers for events are limited and many ticketed, so I would say get booked in.”


A series of talks for adults will focus on aspects of Victorian crime and punishment.
Museums need to balance continuing safety with the need to generate some much needed income.
Science-mad kids to get hands-on with the basics of forensic anthropology.
There's a welcome return for the museum's ever-popular lifeboat tours.