The Museum of Leathercraft is delighted to announce that it has been successful with a bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £78,000 combined with another grant of £80,000 from the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers to undertake a new four year project.
These monies will enable the Trustees to engage an Interpretation Officer over this period to enhance the museum’s displays at Abington Park and to undertake a number of other activities to raise the profile of this important collection. The collection holds over 5,000 leather items and an extensive archive of books and other material relating to the history of the leather industry in Northamptonshire and beyond. In addition the collection is continually being expanded as the Trustees seek to encourage today’s designers who use leather in fashion and other areas.
The collection was started in 1946 in London and the Trustees brought the collection to Northampton under a fifty year agreement in 1977. In recent years the Trustees have taken a much more pro-active role in looking after the collection in partnership with Northampton Borough Council’s museums. The Museum of Leathercraft is now seeking to recruit a body of volunteers and develop an outreach programme of specialist displays, lectures to schools and community groups in order that the people of Northampton and beyond are fully aware of the great treasure held in the town.
Currently there are four rooms in Abington Park Museum with displays of our items but we have a whole area of boxes with undiscovered treasures which need to be fully explored and brought out into the public arena. It is our hope that during this project we may be able to further develop our relationship with the Borough’s museums and bring specialist exhibitions into the central Museum and Art Gallery. Our longer term ambition is to play our part in the establishment of The National Shoe and Leather Collection in a much enlarged and state of the art exhibition area in Guildhall Road.
Councillor David Mackintosh, Leader of Northampton Borough Council said, Northampton has a rich industrial heritage and the town continues to make an important contribution to the leather, fashion and footwear industries. Our shoe makers are still producing high quality leather shoes and products and Northampton University is an internationally renowned centre for leather technology. The town’s museum is home to the finest collection of shoes and shoe heritage and , perhaps not surprisingly, our association with The Museum of Leathercraft goes back many years. I look forward to our continued collaboration and this new funding is a very welcome development. I am delighted for them‘.
Philip Saunderson, Chairman of the Trustees, said that ‘The Museum of Leathercraft is entering into an important new phase in its history with the opportunity to engage an experienced professional to assist in the curatorial work of the collection and to work in partnership with the other museum staff. ‘We have always had really enthusiastic, voluntary and forward looking Trustees but inevitably they are not able to take on massive day to day tasks alongside their own careers and other interests. Their voluntary input will now be given fresh impetus by the very important support now being given by HLF and The Leathersellers’ Company together with The Saddlers’ Company. We have had substantial help in recent years from The Constance Travis Trust to whom we owe a great debt but the Heritage Lottery Fund’s involvement is the first outside public recognition of our efforts apart from the tremendous partnership with the Borough Council’.