Catherine Lister, Collections Officer at Walsall Museum Service says
‘Walsall Leather Museum has been telling the story of the town’s historic leather trade for the past 30 years. As the sole remaining museum in the Borough, the Leather Museum has never been more important to our local history and identity as it is right now.
Our visitors have always been incredibly supportive. Donations from the public and support from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers all added up and we realised we had enough saved to make some improvements to the 30-year-old displays. Cases that were cumbersome to operate, requiring two or more strong members of staff to open, were restricting our ability to put on new displays and weren’t secure enough to meet loan requirements for objects from other museums. There was also the risk of injury each time we opened them. We decided to invest in two new, large showcases.
Our requirements were that the cases must be freestanding and flexible, in a style that would blend in with the older furniture. The cases were to be placed in our Trade Display gallery, in which the exhibits are constantly changing. They had to fit into a specific space and be able to display items ranging in size from costume mannequins to purses.
We looked at five showcase providers and decided to work with Armour Systems because of the high quality of the product and the style options. Another important factor was the cost – we had a specific budget, and Armour were able to work within this.
didn’t overwhelm us with details – they suggested that the best fit for our requirements was the Nova frameless system with suspended shelving, so that we could utilise the whole interior for mannequins or add in shelving as required for smaller objects. The frameless style also meant that, although large, the cases wouldn’t dominate the small room, meaning the focus would be on the contents. Top and bottom plinths, powder coated black, would tie them in with the existing furniture. The design team dealt with a last minute size adjustment we threw at them without missing a beat, and the cases were delivered on schedule.
The technicians that came to fit the cases had to deal with working in a public space which was the only route for wheelchair users, and were perfectly flexible in working around this. They also had to deal with the unfortunate breakage in transit of a glass panel from one of the cases. They apologised, and had reordered the piece before they’d even finished unloading in order to rush the replacement along. They continued with the installation of one case with the other following two weeks later.
The first exhibition to benefit from the new showcases is “Walsall at War”, commemorating the 100th anniversary of a devastating air raid on Walsall. This will be followed by a short display of artworks from adult learners, before a large exhibition of costume in July. Now that we have secure, LED-lit cases, we are already planning to request loans from other institutions in the future’