Protest Lab is an interactive exhibition by Museums Sheffield, which details the history of activism in Sheffield, and the people involved. Protest Lab is one of multiple exhibitions organised to mark the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act in 2018.
The exhibition is laid out in a fun and accessible way, and includes a large timeline explaining some of the major protests and demonstrations in Sheffield throughout history, from the 1700s up until the recent anti-Trump demonstration in January.
There are two wonderfully curated collections of artefacts produced to represent the various causes in the centre of the room. From colourful pin badges and posters to hand-drawn magazines produced for the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, all these hand-made artefacts bring the people fighting for these causes to the focal point of the exhibition, creating an intimate and inspiring experience.
It’s this focus on the individuals involved which makes the exhibition unique, and the ‘write on the wall’ segment links this theme seamlessly with the more contemporary causes that matter to the residents and visitors of Sheffield. Instead of a passive museum experience, visitors get to feel the passion of activists from past and present, and add to it themselves.
As well as the ‘write on the wall’ section, visitors can interact with the exhibition by writing the name of a cause they care about on a sticker provided by Protest Lab, and add it to the exhibition. These contributions will then be used in a series of upcoming showcases and events, giving visitors a fantastic opportunity to shape the exhibition themselves. These interactive elements clearly had the desired effect, with the wall being covered in stickers and notes from visitors, detailing the causes they’ve fought for, and are still fighting for.
A cabinet of bobble heads and plastic toys form a ‘mock demonstration’ in the middle of the room, in which visitors are encouraged to participate by making protest signs for each character. As well as providing another chance for the public to get involved in shaping the exhibition, this seemed to be a brilliant way to engage younger visitors, with this section getting a lot of attention from the children in the exhibition.
There are multiple talks and discussions scheduled to take place at the Protest Lab, covering both historical and contemporary social and political issues, making the project as a whole an interesting and engaging way to learn about the social history of Sheffield. With free entry, you can’t really go wrong.
Protest Lab can be seen at the Millennium Gallery until Sunday 21 May.