MUSEU DE LA PELL

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The Museum

Introduction

The Anonia region, and in particular the city of Igualada, is an area where the art of tanning is a tradition which continues until this day. The tanning industry in Igualada therefore is not just a historical curiosity from a glorious past, but a socio-economic reality which supports a significant proportion of the population and which is constantly adapting to the latest needs and demands of the market.

At the present time there are a total of seventy-two companies dedicated to the tanning of leather, providing nearly a thousand jobs. In Catalonia, Igualada has more companies in this sector than any other city, and in terms of the total number of workers it is second.

Its industry is made up of small and medium-sized companies producing leather for footwear (sales and ‘box-calf’), quality small leather goods, belts, trimmings, sports footwear, tailoring, furs, upholstery and splits for industrial production. In fact, until about a decade ago, 95% of Spain’s entire production came from Igualada. These and other considerations are why the capital of Anoia is the perfect place for a Leather Museum. The Leather Museum, thanks to its style as well as its content, has established itself in Europe’s vanguard, making it a unique pioneer in its sector.


Background

In 1982 an agreement was signed between the Igualada City Council and the Government of Catalonia, to create an autonomous municipal body known as the Museu Comarcal de l’Anoia, under the auspices of a patronage. This autonomous municipal body took on the management and planning of some museums created from 1949 onwards by the Centre d’Estudis Comarcals d’Igualada (Regional Studies Centre of Igulada). One of the more noteworthy events of this initial stage was when the Leather Museum was opened to the public in 1954. At the time this museum was the only one of its type in Spain and one of three in all of Europe.

The City of Igualada purchased the ‘Cal Boyer’ cotton textile factory and the former tannery of ‘Cal Granotes’ to be used as the future location of the museum, of which the Leather Museum would be the cornerstone of the project. The board of directors of Museums of Catalonia, in a general meeting held on 12 January, 1996, gave its approval for the Leather Museum to be declared a section of the Museu Nacional de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya (National Science and Technical Museum of Catalonia). The Museum Patronage, on 15 November, 1997, agreed to a name change in accordance with the latest trends in museums, for which the museum became known as the Museu de la Pell d’Igulada i Comarcal de l’Anoia (Leather Museum of Igualada and the Region of Anoia). Finally, on 26 May 1998, the Government of Catalonia declared the Leather Museum of Igulada a section of the Museu Nacional de la Ciència i de la Tècnica.

The three sections to visit

The Leather Museum is the mainstay of Igualada’s museum programme. Its content is distributed in three different sections. The former tannery of ‘Cal Granotes’, ‘leather in history’ and ‘a universe of leather’. A final section deals with the recent technical advances in leather production, known as the industrialisation of leather or also ‘from the pits to the drums’, the main focus of this document. The former tannery of ‘Cal Granotes’, open to the public in 1990, is a pre-industrial construction from the 18th century located next to an irrigation channel. The visitor is given an explanation of the old Moroccan method of vegetable tanning of hides used before the industry became automated. Most of its production was used for making shoe soles. It still has the two typical floors of a tannery – the ground floor or beamhouse and the loft.

In 1995 the second section of the Leather Museum was inaugurated. Its exhibition is based on two broad topics: leather in history and a universe of leather. The former topic focuses on aspects of production, utility and cultural significance of leather in our Mediterranean civilisation, from the remote past to more recent times: leather in prehistoric times, the advent of tanning, the Mediterranean from end to end: the Greek and Latin worlds; Western leather artisans: monastic parchment scribes and bookbinders, cordovan and embossed leathers for royalty, along with two traditional crafts: shoes and leather riding gear.

A universe of leather shows us the diversity of leather uses and the utility of objects made from leather, with a wide variety of exhibitions: sports, war, travel and nomads. These displays are rounded out by a variety of stimuli, such as sound, images in leather grain and displays made to be touched. The full experience, in addition to the corresponding videos, presents five interactive modules which show some of the properties of the leather: its feel, sound, strength and sealing properties.

The third and final section, which is the main topic of this publication, is the natural continuation of the itinerary that starts form ‘Cal Granotes’ and at the same time is the final stage of the museum tour. It deals with the mechanisation and technical evolution of leather in Igualada.

The two sections complement each other, and, along with the room where the diversity of uses of leather is explained, make up the Leather Museum. This final section is organised into three areas: how tanning took place in Igualada in 1890 – in connection with ‘Cal Granotes’ – and where animal power was used; the beginnings of a specialisation: ’from the pits to the drums", the first steam- powered machines; and finally the industrialisation of leather for shoe soles, where the tanning drums played a significant role thanks to electrical energy.


Click on the miniatures to see the enlarged photograph:

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Views of the Museum
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