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Keep up with all the latest news and updates from the museum.


RSPCA unveils new mini-exhibition to celebrate charity’s 200th anniversary

4 August 2023

The new exhibition, which showcases the life-saving work of the charity over two centuries, opened this week at Sheffield’s National Emergency Services Museum.

Explore more about this new exhibition on our Blog: 

The exhibition is now open and will remain in place throughout 2023 and 2024. 

Since 1824, the RSPCA has worked to prevent cruelty, promote kindness towards, and reduce the suffering of animals. The charity’s vision is of a caring world in which all animals are respected and treated with compassion.


The charity - the oldest and largest animal welfare charity in the UK, will be hosting a number of celebrations next year to mark its 200th anniversary and will provide an opportunity to reflect on the organisation's founding and celebrate its life-saving rescue and campaign work.

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We're officially the best family friendly museum in the UK!

19 October 2022

We've only gone and done it! We've been named the UK’s best family friendly museum at a national awards ceremony in London today (Wednesday 19 October).

We were announced as the overall winner of the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award, beating a host of other heritage sites including the National Maritime Museum, the Museum of London Docklands and the Museum of Making in Derby. It was a double win for us; as well as winning the overall award NESM also took home the prize in the ‘best small museum’ category. 

The prestigious annual award is run by the charity Kids in Museums and recognises the most family friendly heritage sites in the UK. Since it launched in 2004, the award has become a benchmark of excellence in the heritage sector. Each year Kids in Museums receives hundreds of public nominations, which are whittled down to a shortlist by an expert panel. The final say goes to families, who visit each shortlisted museum over the summer holidays, and decide the winner.

NESM has been recognised for our truly outstanding local community work, hands-on galleries, and welcoming staff. Judges were also impressed by the hands-on nature of the museum, encouraging young people to learn through play - with fire engine rides, driving simulators, dressing-up, climbing walls, climb-on vehicles and interactive galleries, covering topics from the Great Fire of London to modern fire safety and staying safe in the water.

Matt Wakefield, the museum’s CEO, said, “This is absolutely amazing news for the museum and an unbelievable achievement for an independent, self-funded museum like us – it hasn’t even sunk in yet. We are just overwhelmed, delighted, proud, excited and everything else you can think of.

“We’re so excited to be nominated for this national award after all the work we’ve done over the last couple of years to make NESM even bigger and better. The fact that our shortlisting is supported by nominations from our visitors, who have shared all their amazing comments about NESM, makes it even sweeter. Thank you to everyone who supported us.

“It’s a wonderful reward for the team and all the hard work that goes into making NESM the best it can possibly be.”

Philip Mould, President of Kids in Museums, said: “For this museum to win the award today, on 999 Day, is really special and proves the love and respect that children and families have for our incredible emergency services staff.

“What’s so important is that this museum tells the story of our emergency services and shares lifesaving lessons in a surprising, engaging and joyful way. This dedicated team has created a place where families can learn together through play, truly bringing history to life. We’re so proud we can highlight this and the excellent work staff and volunteers are doing in Sheffield and right across the UK. Huge congratulations to all of this year’s superb winners.”

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We've been shortlisted in the Family Friendly Museum Awards 2022

28 June 2022

We have some great news to share - we've been shortlisted in the best small museum category in the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award, it was announced today. 

The charity Kids in Museums has run the prestigious annual award for 16 years, recognising the most family friendly heritage sites in the UK. It celebrates museums, galleries and heritage attractions that go the extra mile to provide an excellent family friendly experience. It is the only museum award to be judged by families and is supported by nominations from real visitors and supporters.

From late March to early June, families across the UK voted for their favourite heritage attraction on the Kids in Museums website. A panel of museum experts then whittled down hundreds of nominations to a shortlist of 16 heritage attractions, including five in the small museum category. 

We were praised by the panel for our immersive, hands-on approach and the positive steps we have taken towards improving access. They were impressed by what was being achieved at the museum by such a small team and our ongoing efforts to keep a day out at NESM affordable for families.

Matt Wakefield, our CEO, said, “We’re so excited to be nominated for this national award after all the work we’ve done over the last couple of years to make NESM even bigger and better. The fact that our shortlisting is supported by nominations from our visitors, who have shared all their amazing comments about NESM, makes it even sweeter. Thank you to everyone who nominated us!” 

Over the summer holidays, the museum will be visited by undercover family judges who will assess the shortlisted museums against the Kids in Museums manifesto. Their experiences will decide a winner for each award category and an overall winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2022. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in October.

The Family Friendly Museum Award has been made possible by funding from Arts Council England.

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Support our nomination for the Family Friendly Museum Awards 2022

30 March 2022

Nominations are now open for the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award 2022 and we are asking for your support in the 'best small museum' category.

Each year Kids in Museums puts the power in families’ hands to crown the winner of its annual Family Friendly Museum Award. Now in its fifteenth year, the award recognises museums, galleries and heritage sites that go the extra mile to provide a great experience for children, young people and families.

This is a brilliant opportunity for us to shout about what we are doing for families at NESM, from our interactive, hands-on exhibitions and fire engines rides to our sensory play sessions for under-5s. 

If you would like to support us and share why you think we are great for families, please nominate us by filling in the online form at

The deadline for nominations is 5pm on 6 June 2022.

An expert panel will whittle down the nominations to a shortlist. If COVID-19 restrictions allow, undercover family judges will then visit each shortlisted museum and assess them on how well they meet the Kids in Museums Manifesto. The winners will be announced in October 2022.

For more information on the Family Friendly Museum Award, visit the Kids in Museums website at Thank you!


Contribute your stories to our new exhibition

15 September 2021

We are all familiar with the tragic events of World War I but this year NESM looks to shine a new light on the contribution of our emergency services.


In an all-new temporary exhibition we will be celebrating those that fought for their lives and the lives of others; from VAD nurses and ambulance drivers to trench firefighting and policing. For King & Country will be a small-scale installation with a big impact. Visitors will gain an insight into the sights and sounds of World War I whilst discovering the hidden histories of our brave emergency services.

Through For King & Country we hope to provide a sensitive but powerful space to share and celebrate those stories. But we need YOUR help. We are looking for families across the nation to share their objects, photographs and stories about friends and family members who served in the Great War. These could refer to ANY aspect of the conflict but we would particularly like to hear about objects and memories relating to ambulances, medicine and front-line medics or men who joined up as serving emergency services workers.


We want to capture the feeling, experiences and memories of those that served and would love for you to get in touch with us, whether it’s simply an email retelling a family story or a box of forgotten photographs please contact our collections team via

For King & Country will open at 6:30pm on Armistice Day, 11 November 2021. The exhibition will be open to the public until November 2022.



NESM learning goes national!

9 September 2021

After an 18-month hiatus due to Covid, we've relaunched our learning and discovery programme today with a host of brand new activities, updated workshops and outreach events aimed at learners of all ages. 


Top of the bill is a brand new offer called Topic Takeover days which will take us national for the very first time. Delivered by the museum’s learning and discovery team, in partnership with historical re-enactment group The Past Presents, this full-day activity takes the NESM experience directly to schools anywhere in the country, using role play, costumed characters, interactive activities and team games to immerse learners in their history. From walking in the footsteps of a World War II evacuee to learning about our emergency services heroes, these sessions offer a hands-on, engaging and jam-packed way to learn about the past.


Other activities the NESM team can bring directly into the classroom include bitesize workshops and talks to classes, updated loan boxes including a mixture of genuine and replica objects from the museum’s collection and the always popular vehicle outreach day - which sees the team visit schools with one of the museum’s amazing emergency vehicles and deliver workshops exploring the history and use of the vehicle.


Hosting school visits at our historic home also remains at the heart of our learning and discovery programme. We offer a range of in-house workshops covering curriculum-linked topics like People Who Help Us, Crime and Punishment, and Medicine through Time. Topics are brought to life through interaction with the museum’s unique spaces, such as its original Victorian cells, historic objects from its collection and, new for 2021, costumed characters to tell the stories of the past.

Jed Jaggard of Past Presents, who is working with the museum to deliver the Topic Takeover days, says, ‘We're really excited to be working together on this project. We believe we have something truly unique that will immerse children in fun and engaging sessions to really inspire them and enhance their learning. By learning through immersion, the pupils will have great fun and learn more than they think they could.’


The museum’s learning programme caters to all ages from early years and key stage 1 to GCSE. For full details go to

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Staycation fun promised at NESM

20 July 2021

Families planning a Yorkshire staycation this year can enjoy a summer of fun at our museum thanks to a series of exclusive events and activities planned over the coming weeks.

Getting hands-on is the order of the day at our summer CSI school, Daring Detectives. Budding investigators can polish up their Victorian detective skills and learn about 19th century crime scene investigation. Youngsters will get hands on with sand, paint, microscopes and more, and try out methods like fingerprint analysis before attempting to crack a dastardly crime.

Due to popular demand, additional sensory play sessions for children under five have been added in July and August. On Friday 23 July youngsters can explore the seaside, play in the sand, splash about with boats and singalong with some sea shanties to learn more about the RNLI. On 27 August visitors can become a firefighter for the day, make fire helmets and learn about how to stay safe when there is a fire.

For youngsters interested in science and medicine, there’s a rare opportunity to get hands-on with the basics of forensic anthropology under the guidance of expert Dr Chris Aris. In this session, on 6 August, children will discover what human bones and skulls can tell a forensic scientist and will get the chance to reconstruct a human face in clay.

Other events during 2021 include an exclusive programme of talks, led by a roster of leading experts, covering the history of the police, crime and punishment. Topics include the life of the Victorian bobby, 19th century punishments and early forensic science.

And don't forget, if you upgrade your entry ticket to an annual pass for no extra cost, you could come and visit us for a different activity every week! 

For full details of the museum’s 2021 events and booking information go to our What's On pages.


We are open!

19 May 2021

After a closure of more than six months - our second one since March 2020 - we have reopened to visitors today!


While we’ve been closed our team of staff and volunteers have been working hard to refresh the museum, create new exhibits and make the visitor experience even bigger and better.

The star attraction is a brand new exhibition, ‘Daring Detectives and Dastardly Deeds’, housed in the museum’s original Victorian cells. Another major exhibition, 'Fiery Blaze to Fire Brigade', has also been added during the last year.


Vehicles and other objects not previously on display at the museum are also on show, alongside all the old favourites like our 47-foot ex-RNLI lifeboat. Improved signage around the building helps to tell the story of NESM’s historic home as well as the many emergency services it celebrates. 

The addition of a lift - the first time the museum has had one - and improved toilet facilities have improved accessibility for all visitors.

We can’t wait for everyone to see the changes we’ve made - it’s almost like we’re a new museum!

Unusually the collection features items

Museum acquires unique personal archive

5 May 2021

NESM has acquired the unique personal archive of the detective who led the hunt for Jack the Ripper - including a book in which he names the infamous Whitechapel murderer - and will make it public for the first time.

The private collection of Metropolitan Police Chief Inspector Donald Sutherland Swanson has been entrusted to NESM by the former detective’s family. The treasure trove lay undiscovered for decades until Swanson’s descendants discovered an enormous collection of over 150 individual objects; paperwork, photographs, letters, drawings and personal belongings. 

Among them was what became known as ‘the Swanson marginalia’; a book, annotated by Swanson, in which he names the person he believed to be the infamous killer, Jack the Ripper. The marginalia is thought to be a unique artefact revealing unknown details of the case as well as theories and notes on what evidence the Metropolitan Police had gathered - all from the pen of the inspector charged with solving the case.

The marginalia, along with other items from the collection, will form part of a new exhibition, Daring Detectives & Dastardly Deeds, which will be revealed to visitors when the museum reopens on Wednesday 19 May. The exhibition, housed within NESM’s original Victorian cells, explores the intriguing history of 19th crime and punishment from the bobby on the beat to the emerging science of forensics.

The Swanson collection is thought to be one of the most detailed and significant of its kind. It includes official police paperwork and documents from a number of nationally significant criminal cases as well as Swanson’s own personal findings, theories and evaluations, arrest lists and the resources he used to solve some of his cases. 

Holly Roberts, curator at NESM, says, ‘We are so proud to have been given the honour of caring for this outstanding collection, and to help shed light on the achievements of a remarkable man whose story has been largely forgotten.

‘This vast collection tells us an enormous amount about what it was like to be a detective in 19th century Britain. Even more unusually, there is so much of his professional career and his family and personal life, offering us a unique picture of what a prominent 19th century detective did in his work time and his down time. It is an amazing addition to our museum and to our new exhibition.’

Adam Wood, executive editor of Ripperologist magazine and author of the definitive biography of Swanson, helped to secure the collection for NESM. He said, 'During my seven years of research into Donald Swanson's life I realised that he had enjoyed amazing career, much more than just his known involvement in the Jack the Ripper investigation. The 35-year period of the late Victorian era in which Swanson served was one of massive development for the Metropolitan Police, culminating in the dawn of fingerprint detection. Perhaps more than anyone, it was he who epitomised the evolving Victorian detective, representing that era in the force’s history. 

‘Although a modest man, he was feted in the national press of the day as one of the country's best detectives – and indeed he rose to become Superintendent of the CID at Scotland Yard, the top detective in the country – so it's astonishing that he is largely unknown today, whereas contemporaries such as Frederick Abberline are familiar names. From the discovery of the archive in the early 1980s the Swanson family have sought proper recognition of their ancestor's achievements, so it has been a joy bringing this to fruition by working with the National Emergency Services Museum to make the Donald Swanson collection accessible to all.'

As well as forming part of the museum’s new exhibition, NESM is also planning to digitise the collection and make it more widely accessible to researchers and historians. It is looking to begin several research projects around the Swanson archive in partnership with researchers and colleagues to understand what can be learnt from the collection and will be hosting a series of workshops, talks and special events to celebrate the Donald Swanson story.


Daring Detectives & Dastardly Deeds

19 March 2021

We are excited to announce a brand new exhibition for 2021.

Daring Detectives & Dastardly Deeds will take you on a journey through the dark and dangerous streets of 19th century Britain as you follow the history of our police force, from uniformed police to detectives and forensics. Wander through our Victorian police cells and be immersed in the smells, sounds and sights of the 19th century, from talking portraits and projections to have-a-go detective games and dress-up.  

Get to know the people behind the history, from the men that patrolled the streets to those that found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Discover more than 60 objects on display including exhibits relating to the Jack the Ripper case, a genuine death mask, tools of the detective's trade, uniforms and even a hangman’s noose.

  • Be brave and get to know the poisoners, forgers, murderers and thieves of 19th century England.

  • Try your hand at some of the detective and forensic methods used by Sherlock Holmes.

  • Get close and personal with rare original documents from the Jack the Ripper case.

  • Try and solve some of the trickiest detective cases of the 19th century.


This exhibition is suitable for all ages but please note there are references to criminal cases as well as objects relating to crime scenes and criminality.

Please note: Daring Detectives & Dastardly Deeds will be available when the museum reopens. Keep an eye out on the website and our social media for more information.

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