Written by Victoria Green.
The National Leather Collection was founded in 1946 to tell the story of leather-crafting, from prehistory to the present day. The foundations to do this have been built in the heart of Northampton, the home of the UK shoe and leather industry. The original founder, John Waterer, had intended for the museum to be the national repository for all things leather, the largest collection of items and information in the world. For many years, his legacy remained in storage. It was time to continue his endeavours; to collect, to educate, and to inspire both present and future generations.
On September 9th, the National Leather Collection opened its doors for the first time as part of the Heritage Open Days weekend. The opening was the culmination of a four year project to bring stories and treasures back to the public, sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Leathersellers Company. Visitors were able to explore our exhibition representing five millennia of leather-crafting, and get hands on in workshops run by industry professionals. Store tours exposed the ‘backstage’ areas, and explained the inner workings of our museum. Best of all, we got to talk leather and history all day! It was great to meet so many people that are as passionate about leather as we are, and it offered a tantalising preview of what we aspire to become; a free for entry community resource, doors permanently open to the curious and leather-minded.
This year, we will be expanding our library to welcome a collection of books on leather-crafting from the University of Northampton. Perhaps one day they will inspire a new trend, using older and more traditional tanning recipes. We also hope to continue to build our 5,000 item collection by actively acquiring, so here comes a call to action for all readers; if you happen to be removing unwanted machinery used in leather manufacture, get in touch! If you have any artefacts or items of importance, consider donating them for public display. We want to continue Waterer’s good work, and educate the people of the world about leather in order to reinvigorate interest in the industry and inspire a new generation of leather-crafters. Our message is simple; our museum is not only concerned with the past, but with the future too.
Following the open day, everyone in the museum is working hard to deliver on the promise to return the collection to the public. In the meantime, the objects remain on display and the smell of leather is still very much in the air.
The National Leather Collection can be found on Floor 2 of the Grosvenor Centre, and is accessible by lift or stairs from the Market Square entrance to the shopping centre.
Currently the team are preparing for regular opening in November 2017. At present, the NLC is staffed Monday – Thursday, 10am – 4pm. Please call or email if you would like to visit: 07484066627, firstname.lastname@example.org