Steel City

The Designed to Shine exhibition is on at the Millennium Galleries, Sheffield, until October, but if you’d like to do a 1913-themed, child-friendly activity this weekend while you’re waiting for spring to arrive, it’s kid-endorsed and mother approved. Here’s a guest post about the stainless steel centenary, from the talented Foley Stocks (with some help from his mom, Kate the Poet, and his brothers Ethan and Cai).

Thanks, for doing this awesome investigative research, guys!

If you’d like to write a guest post or go on a guest mission for The 1913 Exhibition, get in touch with @chellaquint on Twitter.

Stainless Steel: The Assignment

Firth's "Stainless" Steel" for Cutlery etc.

Excerpt from original advert (reprinted for the exhibition).

Guest Post by Foley Stocks

One day, my mum and brothers and I went to see the Designed to Shine Exhibition at the Millennium Galleries to learn about history! Designed to Shine is there to celebrate 100 Years of Stainless Steel in Sheffield. We learned about how long stainless steel has been made in Sheffield, and what types of things are made out of it.

I interviewed Lucy Cooper, the curator of the gallery, and asked if she could tell my brothers and me what things kids use that might have stainless steel in them. Lucy said many children would have toys that use stainless steel. Mechanical toys, or parts of toy cars have stainless steel in them.

We learned that stainless steel was discovered in 1913 by Harry Brearley in Sheffield.  It used to be called by different names, like “everbright” and “rustnorstain”.  All of the names describe how this type of steel does not rust and is easy to clean.

Cutlery is made from stainless steel, and we saw an old toast rack made out of it also. Lucy Cooper explained to us that because stainless steel is easy to clean, a lot of things in the kitchen are made from it. In our house we have cutlery, cat food bowls, a coffee mug and even our sink that are all made from stainless steel! I wanted to know how different it is from glass. Glass is very breakable, and clear, and stainless steel is durable, solid metal. But sometimes things made from glass or ceramic are also made from stainless steel – like cups, coffee mugs and bowls! Strange. This was very interesting to me.

But other things not found in the kitchen can be made from stainless steel too!

We even saw a wedding dress made out of stainless steel at the gallery, and it was not like my brother Ethan and I imagined it would be!

Chella asked us to draw pictures of what we thought a stainless steel dress would look like before we saw the dress.

Ethan drew a chunky metal dress:

Dress made of steel with rivets

Ethan’s dress had rivets!

I drew a robot wearing a dress with gears on (so Mum said it was very steampunk):

steel dress with rivets, cogs and gears

Foley’s dress, with rivets, cogs and gears – very steampunk!

But this dress was just like a dress made of fabric! The steel was woven into a fine mesh for the skirt, and lined with silk. Lucy said this was so it would not scratch the lady’s skin when she wore it. It was beautiful!

a dress made of woven steel fabric

The actual stainless steel wedding dress!

There were also three sculptures together, called “Hope”, so I guess they are supposed to represent hope. These sculptures were also made from thin stainless steel. On our learning worksheet from the exhibition, it said to describe the sculpture. I wrote down that they were “stringy and strange”, and will maybe write a poem about them soon.

Stringy and strange sculptures in steel wire.

Hope: both stringy and strange.

When I asked Lucy Cooper why it is important when things turn 100,  she said that 100 is a “landmark” number, and when we celebrate how something has lasted a century (that’s 100 years) it is celebrating tradition. Also, most people don’t live a whole century, and if you do, you get a letter from the Queen (or maybe King, if I live to be 100, because the Queen is in her eighties already!). Because people don’t usually live that long, Lucy said, it is even more exciting to investigate a century’s worth of history.

I learned a lot about stainless steel. It made me extra proud to come from Sheffield, and also now I want to live to be a hundred.


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