TitleSheffield City Council: Libraries, Arts and Museums Committee Minutes
AdminHistoryIn the 1840s, William Ewart (son of a Liverpool merchant) and Joseph Brotherton (a non-conformist minister and cotton mill owner of Manchester, born in Chesterfield) campaigned to establish a system of public libraries. Ewart introduced the Public Libraries Bill in 1849. The Public Libraries Act became law in 1850. Ewart wanted all boroughs to have the power to finance public libraries, but the legislation only applied to those boroughs with populations of over 10,000. The Borough Councils also had to obtain the consent of two thirds of the local ratepayers who voted in a referendum. Moreover, the rate of no more than a halfpenny in the pound could be levied and this money could not be used to purchase books.

Ewart and Brotherton argued successfully for a more generous and comprehensive approach to public library provision. This led to two amendments to the 1850 Public Libraries Act. In 1853 the act was extended to Scotland and Ireland and in 1855 the rate which could be levied was raised to a penny. Borough Councils were also granted the power to buy reading material for their libraries. The penny rate still made it difficult for local authorities to provide libraries without the support of wealthy entrepreneurs.

The champions of the Public Library in Sheffield were Richard Solly (an ironmaster), William Fisher the younger (horn and ivory merchant and Mechanics' Institute Committee member) and Samuel Bailey (retired merchant and friend of Brotherton). Solly and Fisher were Aldermen of the Borough Council. Solly moved a resolution in support of the Public Library Bill, which the Council presented as a petition to Parliament.

The Free Public Library Committee for Sheffield Borough Council was appointed under the Public Libraries Act, 1850. The first meeting was held on 19 Dec 1853 and Alderman Solly was elected Chairman. In Jan 1855, the Committee of the Sheffield Mechanics Institution made an offer of rooms in the Mechanics Institution building on Surrey Street for the purposes of a free public library which was accepted. The Reference Department of the Library was opened on 1 Feb 1856 and the Lending Department opened on 2 Jun 1856. In 1869, a branch of the Sheffield Free Library was opened at Upperthorpe - the first of a branch network. The Council undertook a complete reconstruction of the library system in 1921, reaching completion in 1934 when the newly built Central Library was opened. A Mobile Library Service was established in 1962.

On 6 Sep 1875 a Public Museum was opened at Weston Park. This meant that museums now came under the remit of the Libraries Committee which adopted the new name of Free Public Libraries and Museum Committee in 1874. In 1884 it was reported that Weston Park Museum was to receive a bequest of oil paintings from Mr J. Newton Mappin. The Mappin Art Gallery was opened by Sir Frederick T. Mappin, Bart., M.P. on 27 Jul 1887. In 1889 it was noted that Professor Ruskin and the Trustees of the Guild of St George (set up by Ruskin in 1871) had decided to give the collections of the Ruskin Museum to the Corporation of Sheffield. High Hazels Museum was opened in 1901 (but closed shortly after the Second World War). Abbeydale Works were restored and developed as a museum, opening to the public as Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet in 1970.

In 1933 Dr. J. K. M. Rothenstein was appointed Director of Art Galleries at Sheffield. He was responsible for the art collections at the Central and Mappin Art Galleries and the also the Ruskin Collection. In 1933 the Committee changed its name to reflect its widening remit becoming the Libraries, Art Galleries and Museums Committte. The Graves Art Gallery was opened in 1934.

The Libraries, Arts and Museums Committee underwent a number of name changes as its remit altered over time:

Free Public Library Committee, 1853 - 1869
Free Public Libraries Committee, 1869 - 1874
Free Public Libraries and Museum Committee, 1874 -1900
Free Public Libraries and Museums Committee, 1900 - 1912
Public Libraries and Museums Committee, 1912 - 1919
Libraries and Museums Committee, 1919 - 1933
Libraries, Art Galleries and Museums Committee, 1933 - 1963
Libraries and Arts Committee, 1963 - 1968; 1969 - 1981
[See: Recreation Committee, 1968 - 1969]
Libraries and Arts Programme Committee, 1981 - 1987

Various sub-committees were set up from time to time to deal with specific issues such as the establishment of branch libraries etc. The main sub-committees were the Libraries Sub-Committee, the Museums Sub-Committe and the Art Galleries Sub-Committee, all of which reported back to the parent Committee.

In the late 1980s sub-committees and panels of this committee included: Libraries and Information Sub-Committee; Labour and Social History Panel; Performing and Community Arts Panel; Arts and Museums Sub-Committee and Grant Aid Advisory Panel.

In 1981 the Civic Information Service, previously the responsibility of the Industrial Development and City Promotion Committee was transferred to the Libraries and Arts Committee. At the same time the Council's dealings with the Crucible Theatre, previously the responsibility of the General Purposes and the Policy committees were transferred to Libraries and Arts (see CA-MIN/119 3 June 1981).
DescriptionOfficial minutes of the Libraries, Arts and Museums Committee.

The minutes record the detailed decision making of the Libraries, Arts and Museums Committee. These volumes include minutes and reports of the Committee and various Sub-Committees.

Signed minute books, 1853 - 1974, ( CA-LAM/1/1-13)

These minute books include: staff appointments and salaries; the establishment of branch libraries; the purchase and donation of books, manuscripts, specimens and paintings; bequests; building matters; income and expenditure; number of books issued and visitor figures to the museums etc. From 1958 the minutes include extracts from the Record of Meteorological Observations made at Weston Park Museum and analysis of queries received by the Civic Information Service.

Draft minute books, 1951 - 1987, (CA-LAM/2/1-43)

The draft minute books includes Annual Reports for the Art Gallery, City Museum, Civic Information Service and Library Services and reports of the various sub-committees including: Art Galleries Sub-Committee, Museums Sub-Committee, Libraries Sub-Committee, Buildings and Staffing Sub-Committee, Education and Libraries, Art Galleries and Museums Joint Sub-Committee, etc.

These minutes record: analysis of books on issue, branch library matters; deposit of documents; bequests, donations, loans and purchases of specimens and pictures, museum displays; details of art gallery exhibitions; forthcoming lectures; film shows; staff matters (including appointments, grants to, leaves of absence, marriage of, overtime, training, resignations) etc.

There is a gap in both series of minutes from May 1968 and May 1969 when libraries, art galleries and museums came under the Recreation Committee (see minutes of the Recreation Committee, May 1868 - May 1969, CA-REC).

Minutes and reports of the various libraries, arts and museums sub-committees (1855 - 1981) are recorded in separate sub-committee minute books (see CA-L).

Minutes and reports relating to the Ruskin Museum Committee (1889 - 1933) are recorded in a separate collection of minute books (see CA-RM).

Minutes and reports relating to the Mappin Art Gallery Committee (1887 - 1933) are recorded in a separate collection of minute books (see CA-MAG).
Date1853 - 1987
Extent56 items
AccessConditionsSome items contain personal information about staff which is closed for 75 years under the Data Protection Act (exempt under section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act).
RelatedMaterialAt Sheffield Archives:
The City Libraries of Sheffield 1856 - 1956, Libraries, Art Galleries and Museums Committee, 1956 (Ref. LIB/LOCAL)

Libraries Sub-Committee, 1855 - 1981, CA-L
Ruskin Museum Committee, 1889 - 1933, CA-RM
Mappin Art Gallery Committee, 1887 - 1933, CA-MAG

At Sheffield Local Studies Library:
Annual Reports of the Libraries, Arts and Museums Committee, 1857-1915; 1922 - 1966-7 (Ref. 027.44274 S)
Annual Reports of the Sheffield Museums, 1961 - 1993 [note: with gaps] (Ref. 708.2 S and SQ)
The City Libraries of Sheffield 1856 - 1956, Libraries, Art Galleries and Museums Committee, 1956 (027.44274 S)
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