Including ‘Steelopolis’: John Ruskin’s Inclusive Museum

By Stephen Keck.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Despite the fact that Ruskin was possibly the 19th century’s chief advocate for museums in Britain, his work with these public cultural institutions remains understudied. ‘Including ‘Steelopolis’’ first briefly examines the impact of museums on Ruskin’s development by focusing upon the ways in which collecting was an intellectual activity for him. A short examination of Ruskin’s historical thought reveals that the habit of collecting was crucial for his ability to interpret the past. These aspects of Ruskin’s thought and outlook were critical to his efforts to develop a museum in Sheffield. Ruskin used his personal collections to create St. George’s Museum, which was from the outset intended to be an inclusive museum. The main purpose of St. George’s Museum was to provide workers with access to beauty and culture (helping to preserve the past was another aim) by creating an institution where they could study significant subjects. Ruskin’s inclusive museum played an important role in educating workers in Sheffield. Finally, exploring the history of St. George’s Museum as an inclusive museum illustrates that the world of the Victorian museum was a more complicated one than is often imagined.

Keywords: Ruskin, Victorians, Sheffield, Collections, Museums, Workers, Class, History

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.41-54. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.161MB).

Dr. Stephen Keck

Head of Department, Department of International Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Stephen L. Keck (DPhil, University of Oxford; MDiv, BA, Yale University) is Associate Professor of History and Head of the Department of International Studies at the American University of Sharjah. Dr. Keck is interested in modern British intellectual and cultural history, historiography, public history, European imperialism and the fate of religions in the modern world. His articles have appeared in a wide number of publications and reflect his research, focused in three areas: recovering the career of Sir Arthur Helps (a major mid-19th century figure who wrote widely-read literature, studied the Atlantic Slave Trade and directly served Queen Victoria) from neglect; exploring John Ruskin’s historical thought (especially as it related to Venice) to show that he was a significant public historian; and, finally, developing an intellectual and cultural history of colonial Burma. Stephen has taught widely, offering courses in Western and World history, and more specialized subjects such as 19th Century Europe, European intellectual history, British India, Modern France and Algeria, Imperialism and historiography. Before coming to AUS, he taught at the College of Charleston and the National University of Singapore. During the summer of 2006 Dr. Keck worked in Yangon, Myanmar as part of a team which taught courses aimed at stimulating critical thinking.

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