Includes interesting stories from the world of leather and updates on the Museum. Issued periodically.

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MARCH 2016 Your monthly update on what is happening at IMOLC
Chairman’s Notes

I’m afraid there is little to report regarding our proposed move. Negotiations are still ongoing, and we are, indeed, extremely close to moving, but there have been last minute bureaucratic hitches, and, unfortunately, until these are finally settled, we can move no further.

Nevertheless, we are in an upbeat mood, and we continue to catalogue the “mystery” items that we have. These are various objects that have no identifying provenance, or indication of where they originated, so it is down to us to arrive at a suitable description for each object. So far it is proving to be great fun, but, I have to say, I sometimes wish these objects could actually speak!!!

We are also busy packing up objects ready for the impending move, and, with luck, next month I will be able to dispense some good news!!!
In the meantime, please travel through the website and have a look at the latest blogs, and recently posted photographs.

Ken Moakes

Main Gallery

Six new items, featuring interesting book bindings, have been added to the web site this month. Please go and have a look.

Leather is Everywhere Gallery

This is your opportunity to share a leather item that you have seen, owned, treasured or are interested in.
It is simple – Go to the Leather is Everywhere Gallery by scrolling down this page. Upload details of the item and click Send!


Please check out the Events page. You will find there a directory of Trade Fairs, Courses, Workshops, Exhibitions and Competitions compiled by Caroline Darke.

Academic News

Amy Jones, a student at the University of South Wales last year sought our assistance in gaining access to a youth leather jerkin (c.1560) held in our collection which she wanted to re-produce and submit as part of her Costume Construction for Screen and Stage course.

Amy’s reproduction which is entirely hand sewn and decorated with rows of hearts and stars pinked between lines of scoring is illustrated below and we are delighted to announce that her work received a ‘First’. Congratulations Amy.



Library Insight

The history of leather has been a mysteriously under-researched field. This is surprising, given that leather has been so important from earliest times. Perhaps it is because this material was everywhere; so many necessities were made of leather, from buckets to the points which laced up your jerkin in the days before buttons. The Museum collection, however, shows how it also was made into beautiful, rich and precious objects which appeared in the houses of the wealthy and in the churches.

In most museums, leather is usually found here and there. In the Museum of Leather Craft, we have a unique collection of leather objects, gathered together, which indicate the extent to which leather, as a material, underpinned daily life in the past. What is very fortunate and important is that when John Waterer started the collection , he was no dilettante, he read and studied and consequently created a library. Miraculously, we still have that library which has now grown and continues to support the collection. The items date from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries.  Its contents demonstrate an astonishing reach and reinforce the point that leather is a vastly important material. Currently, there are 227 entries on our subject index, from Archaeology and Arms and Armour to Wall Hangings (gilt leather) and Whips. Fashion is an important area. We do not just have ‘bags’. We have information about medieval messenger bags and 1950s handbags. There are too many items to pick out but have you considered leather money? Leather playing cards? Leather cannons? (Yes, I know it sounds like an accident waiting to happen.) Books and articles on these are all there, along with the more expected works on things like saddles, leather bottles and book bindings.

One of the unexpected treats in the collection is to find letters to and from John Waterer or his personal annotations in the books. It indicates his grip on the subject and very little seems to have escaped him. He clearly helped many with their research, though there is one letter to him from an author, whose book he reviewed, thanking him for  pointing out the errors. She sounds just the tiniest bit miffed. And, of course, we have Waterer’s own books and articles all gathered together here.

For students, the greatest hidden treasures may be the least exotic-looking items.  Social historians will like the lists of payments for piece work for the various jobs in the leather and leather goods trades. Industrial archaeologists may well be interested in the catalogues of materials and machinery dating from the nineteenth century and those interested in leather manufacture will also find much to interest them. Fashion students will find it a possibly unique resource for leather clothing and accessories. I have not even mentioned the parliamentary material, the ethnographical articles or sporting equipment.  Many of the subjects represented in the books are augmented by our journal and year book collection, offering a primary resource for the given date. At present, we have the basic catalogue on line but hope to extend services to researchers as facilities become available. In the meantime, have a look at the catalogue. You will find it at MoL cat 14.07.15 (1). There is a lot more to discover.

Pat Thomson




Conservation News

An Introduction

It is a time of change for the Museum of Leathercraft, and there are many exciting plans in store for the collection as it’s due to move to a new, central location and become more accessible to the public than ever before.  

I will be working alongside the museum for the duration of this year, focusing on the conservation and care of the extensive collection of leather based objects. In the development of a project on this scale, there are many different important aspects to consider- ranging from financial issues to curatorial decisions and public engagement. My priority is to ensure the safety of the objects themselves.

The museum has the most comprehensive collection of objects made wholly and partly from leather in the world, with objects spanning over 300,000 years of history and raging from Paleolithic era flint tools to 1970’s gas diaphragms. Leather is a unique and fascinating material, and no two pieces are the same. Each object will need to be individually examined and assessed, and with a collection of over 5000 objects this is no small task.

I will be looking at a variety of issues, including the environmental conditions of the museum space, packing, storing and transportation of the objects during the move and creating a strategy to ensure that the most vulnerable items receive the care they need. Leather is a very durable material, and if looked after properly can last for vast periods of time- as evidenced by the fascinating objects in this collection. My responsibility will be to ensure that this collection will survive to be enjoyed by future generations as we are able to enjoy it today, and I look forward to writing about objects and challenges as they come my way!

Rosie Bolton

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Our previous newsletter February 2016
Chairman’s Notes

After much negotiation, and hiccups, it looks like we will very shortly be moving into our new premises in the centre of Northampton. Hopefully, I can reveal full details in my next set of notes.

If all goes well, we will be moving the collection out of Abington Park towards the end of February, and into a storage section of the new site.
The new site will need some refurbishing, and new carpets laid and then we can look forward to actually opening to the public sometime later this year.

It has been a lot of hard work to get where we are now, and I sincerely hope that we can sustain our momentum, and show the public just what they have been missing for the last few decades. This will hinge, in a large part, on our financial situation, and we have now put into place a strategy for fund raising, which hopefully will bear fruit over the next few months.

In the meantime, please trawl through the website, and see some samples of what we have!

Ken Moakes


Main Collection

Six new items have been added to the web site this month. (Photo Credits: Northampton College). Please go and have a look .

Leather is Everywhere Gallery

This is your opportunity to share a leather item that you have seen, owned, treasured or are interested in.
It is simple – Go to the Leather is Everywhere Gallery by scrolling down this page. Upload details of the item and click Send!


Please check out the Events page. You will find there a directory of Trade Fairs, Courses, Workshops, Exhibitions and Competitions compiled by Caroline Darke

New features coming next month

Conservation News by Rosie Bolton
Library Insight by Pat Thomson
Funding Update by Kevin Traynor
A Volunteer’s Experience

To receive IMOLC World each month click the mail button on the left of the screen.

From next month archived copies of IMOLC World will be available here as well.