Local residents gathered last week to show their support for the museum

Walsall Leather Museum fights for survival

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 23.11.2016
Campaign launched to prevent closure of popular local museum
Local people have launched a campaign to prevent the closure of Walsall Leather Museum and keep it in its current home.

The museum is at risk after Walsall Council, which is facing cuts of £86m over the next four years, put forward plans to either close it completely or move it from its current location to Walsall Central Library, where just a fraction of its collection would be displayed.  

The museum tells the history of Walsall’s leather industry, which is still a central part of the town’s economy today, and features examples of local craftsmanship and workshops where visitors can watch leather makers at work.  

Residents held a demonstration last week against the council’s plans, saying the public should be offered the option of keeping the museum where it is. Paper and online petitions have attracted more than 4,000 signatures so far.

Michael Glasson, the senior museums curator at Walsall museum service, said: “We have had massive support since the demonstration. People love the leather museum – it’s been a big part of their lives for 30 years.”

The council’s budget consultation offers respondents the opportunity to propose other ideas and suggestions, and Glasson said he was urging people to use this to ask the council to keep the museum in its current home.

“There is a whole range of options that haven’t been considered. It just seems terribly sad that the council – for understandable reasons – are giving local people a very limited choice.”
The museum is embedded in the local community and is particularly popular with hard-to-reach audiences from low income backgrounds, added Glasson.
“The museum is very much rooted in working class life,” he said. “But it’s not a community who tend to shout loud - they don’t feel they have the right to protest.”

The council is slashing cultural provision across the city; a further proposal to cease funding for the New Art Gallery Walsall has generated significant controversy.

Four of the council’s five museums have already closed in recent years, and the leather museum also cares for and displays items from their collections. 

A final decision will be made on the museum's future on 23 February 2017.