Turner Museum of Glass

21 June 2023

Earlier in the year I had the most fabulous ‘school trip’ to Dundee to visit the Plastic: remaking our world exhibition at V&A Dundee.  To get the most out of the journey I had a look at some other museums that I could visit on the way.  The best fit was another university collection focusing on a single material /material family.  That collection was the Turner Museum of Glass at the University of Sheffield where I met with Emily Green, Interim Head of Special Collections, Heritage & Archives and University Heritage Collections Manager.

The core of the Turner Museum collection is 20th century art glass which was acquired by W.E.S. Turner, Professor of the Department of Glass Technology, through his personal contacts with glass producers and designers in many parts of the world from the 1920s to the 1950s.  Many pieces were made especially for Turner or while he was watched.  In 1943 Professor Turner donated his collection to the University of Sheffield to inspire students and researchers and serve as ‘a counterbalance to the technical activities in which the department is engaged.’  The collection continues to be added to as the museums acquires work from contemporary artists in glass.

Some of the cases showing the collection including some of the early glass.   Image credit: L Dennis
These case show glass from around the world including pieces created by contemporary artists.  Image credit: L Dennis

I wasn’t expecting to see a dress made of glass.  The blue fibreglass dress, handbag, shoes and hat were worn by Helen Nairn Monro on her marriage to Professor Turner in 1943.  The dress was designed and made by Messrs Pettigrew and Stephens, Glasgow and the fabric was created by Glass Fibres Ltd of Firhill, Glasgow.

Fibreglass dress, 1943, made by Messrs Pettigrew and Stephens, Glasgow. Image credit: L Dennis

I really enjoyed my visit to the collection as it reminded me of my time at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery which has a fabulous collection of early glass, and I am very grateful to Emily for taking the time to talk to me about the collection.

Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP