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International Museum Day 2021

With Lancaster City Museum, Lancaster Maritime Museum, Judges’ Lodgings, Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster Castle and The Ruskin

Recover and Reimagine: Lancaster's Future Heritage

Bringing together art, artefacts and ideas from Lancaster City Museum, Lancaster Maritime Museum, Judges’ Lodgings, Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster Castle and The Ruskin, Recover and Reimagine: Lancaster’s Future Heritage uses Lancaster’s collections to respond to the 2021 International Museum Day theme, ‘The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine.’

Tomorrow's World Today

The Ruskin: Museum of the Near Future is delighted to host this co-created exhibition. As we do now, Ruskin lived at a time of rapid change. From minerals to mountains, cornices to cathedrals, Ruskin’s drawings, paintings and photographs encourage us to reimagine our understanding of the world through looking closely, seeing clearly and imagining freely. Each site in Lancaster has selected works to reflect perspectives on the arts, activism, sustainability and futures-making.

We invite you to browse the catalogues and send us your own selections and comments – helping us create and share new ways of reflecting on change and innovation and where tomorrow’s world is today.

The exhibition guide is available to download, containing all the text in this exhibition in an accessible format. If you require further assistance with accessing this exhibition, please email

We chose three themes to think about in relation to our collections:

1: Education/Culture/Activism

Museums have always been part of their local communities: in 1875, John Ruskin founded the St George Museum at Walkley, within walking distance of Sheffield’s industrial centre, as a local museum for Sheffield and its suburbs. The collection also looked beyond the local, including the art, built and natural environments of the UK and Europe more widely.

In 2020-21, the pandemic has accelerated this trend toward localism while, simultaneously, the world is becoming increasingly connected. Unable to access physical galleries, visitors have had the opportunity to explore international museums from their own homes. They have also interacted with their own local museums in ways they might not have done otherwise. The items represented here show how our museums are reflecting on their new roles, pushing the boundaries of learning and broadening their scope virtually, whilst also imagining a world in recovery. As we look toward global and local recoveries, post-pandemic, we see an opportunity to remake the role of culture in everyday life.

2: Society/Sustainability

Ruskin saw that the future of social relations (and of human society) and the sustainability of the planet are interlinked. Our choices, individually and as communities, reflect our values and impact global ecological crises and widening social inequalities. New approaches which take into account the needs of the human and non-human can show us ways of living which are ‘useful, fruitful, beautiful’. Museum collections, and the stories behind them, can inspire choices about our futures while considering the ways that society and sustainability have been interconnected in the past. This creative potential for culture as a driver for change and innovation is more important than ever as we look towards a future society unimaginable even two years ago.

3: Collections/Future Making

For Ruskin, the future is made today. He believed the way we see things now will affect how we think and behave in the future. Like the Covid pandemic, the industrial revolution during Ruskin’s lifetime catalysed seismic and long-lasting changes to work, learning, leisure and life. Ruskin’s own collections and gifts – to local and national museums, educational organisations and social projects – were assembled and distributed in the context of a rapidly changing world.

Heritage sites and the art and artefacts within them have the power to contribute to change through new ways of viewing and understanding collections like 3D imaging technology; and through prompting us to respond to ideas and challenges in the ways collections are curated. This exhibition reflects on the role of collections and of the museum in the ongoing dynamic process of imagining and understanding the past, present, and future shaped by different forms of knowledge, culture, values and beliefs.