Gilding and Decorative Surfaces Group: History and Conservation of Leather

An introduction to the conservation of leather, by Loredana Mannina

The unique properties of skin and leather have been exploited for millennia and almost all human cultures have developed specialist techniques to utilise this readily available raw material for a wide variety of purposes. Tanning has been described as man’s first manufacturing process with great changes brought over the centuries in the processing of leather and the way man has made use of this material. 

Skin and leather objects raw or decorated in various techniques are today part of the most diverse collection types such as Historic, archaeological, ethnographic, archives & books, fashion, natural history, private, etc. 

On Monday, March 22 at 7 p.m. (GMT), the Icon Gilding and Decorative Surfaces group will host a lecture dedicated to the care of leather. Loredana will discuss the nature and chemistry of leather, its history of use, manufacture and decorative techniques, the degradation processes and the treatment options available to conservators and collection care professionals.

From the condition assessment, to conservation approaches, to display and storage, this lecture will broadly cover how best to understand and care for leather objects in your collection. 

The lecture will be followed by the presentation of the upcoming workshop on leather conservation which Loredana will soon deliver virtually by sending the ultimate leather conservation toolkit straight to your doorstep! The Q&A session will address your questions and hopefully fuel an interesting conversation on our favourite material: leather!