Leeds museum enjoys industrial revolution in visitor numbers

Nina Baptiste, museum curator at Armley Mills Museum by a  Hattersley Loom now back in working order. PIC: Steve Riding

Nina Baptiste, museum curator at Armley Mills Museum by a Hattersley Loom now back in working order. PIC: Steve Riding

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A Leeds museum which houses a collection of the city’s industrial gems is celebrating its own revolution – a soaring of visitor numbers as it weaves and steams its way into its 30th year.

Nina Baptiste, keeper of Armley Mills Museum, has led a renaissance in interest which has seen it buck national trends downwards.

Visitor numbers have almost doubled to 30,000 a year in the past four years.

And now, as the museum prepares for its landmark 30th birthday later this year, a whole raft of projects and a revamp of the vast textile, train and technology themed collections will “breathe new life” into the building.

These include the planned restoration of many of the textile machines, as well as the museum’s collection of steam engines and other engineering gems.

The looms are already spinning again on the famed ‘mule’ machine, which is producing fibres again 50 years after the mill closed.

The entire collection of sewing machines is also set to get a reboot - and the recession-hit public invited to come and use them in a throwback to the wartime “make do and mend culture”.

The ancient waterwheel will also get a revamp thanks to a funding boost from local Labour councillors, and it could soon be providing hydro-power to the museum.

Mrs Baptiste, who lectured all over the world on increasing museum audiences before taking the Armley Mills helm, told the YEP: “The Armley Mills museum tells the story of the whole industrial history of Leeds, not just textiles. Our mission in the next few years is to get the lungs of the museum filling with air and starting to breathe again.”

A major 30th anniversary celebration will be held in May. See the YEP in the coming weeks for details of events.

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