Public lectures lift the lid on Northampton’s leather heritage

Date 22.11.2018

This week, the University of Northampton co-hosted a series of public history events at the National Leather Collection. These lunchtime workshops were part of the annual Being Human Festival, which celebrates the contribution of the humanities. Professor Matthew McCormack from the University of Northampton’s History team won funding from the festival for the second year in a row to help stage the events, which were featured in their national programme.

The events focused on “The origins of leather”, to tie in with this year’s festival theme of “Origins and Endings”. The National Leather Collection staged a pop-up exhibition on the theme and the workshops featured different talks every day by experts in the field. These included Dr Mike Redwood, a visiting professor at the University, who talked about the history of leather tanning, and Professor Matthew Collins from Cambridge University, who talked about the science of leather archaeology.

“The Being Human Festival provides an excellent opportunity to showcase the National Leather Collection,” explains Professor McCormack.

“This museum is a hidden gem and we are keen to work with them to help raise its public profile. It is fitting that Northampton, which has such a long history with the shoe and leather trades, should be the home of this wonderful resource.”

The events, which ran from 20 to 22 November, also featured demonstrations of the manufacture of historic leather articles, and opportunities for the public to try their hand at leather crafts.

The National Leather Collection is based in the Grosvenor Centre in Northampton, and holds a huge collection of leather objects that is of international importance. The museum works closely with staff from the University in fields such as History, Leather Technology and Fashion, and provides opportunities for students at the University.