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The first phase of the relocation of the famous leather education and history activities to the centre of Northampton, situated in the East Midlands of England, is underway. It's February 1 and we are high up in a busy Shopping Centre above the ancient Market Square, where the Museum of Leathercraft has been given two huge floors. Only it is not the Museum of Leathercraft any more: it is now called the National Leather Collection.
Even that is a far from perfect name as it is very much an international collection with items from all around the world including bits of the Dead Sea Scrolls gifted by my old University Professor Ron Reed, military items from Russia, books from all over and a significant range of Native Artefacts - before we even start looking seriously.
Indeed, what is exciting about the new space is that for the first time in some 25 years of storage the collection is coming out of boxes and being made accessible for us all to look at. Whatever sector of tanning you are interested in, whatever bit of social history excites you there is something to be uncovered.
It is a huge undertaking. To fit out the current buildings about £250,000 (US$316,000) is needed, while another £200,000 (US$253,000) is required for annual running costs with a larger sum being looked for to conserve and build on the collection over the next twenty years. Patrons, trustees and "friends" are all being sought.
The Museum already has a big collection of books and this will be extended to form a library along with a suite of study and meeting rooms for the new Leather School when it moves to its new premises nearby in the centre of town. The University Leather School - the Institute for Creative Leather Technology - should be moving towards the end of 2018. Judging from the quality of coffee and cakes on offer at the new Museum the arrangement should create a busy hub for student thinking creatively and an absolutely incredible resource.
1st February 2017
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