Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interning at the Bata Shoe Museum

By Kelly Smith

On May 2nd I began a four month internship at the Bata Shoe Museum.  This internship marks the completion of the Museum Management and Curatorship program at Flemming Collage which includes two semesters of classes with a third and final semester of hands-on training.  My week began by becoming familiar with the collection.  Within the first two days I had explored South Storage, where the Western Fashion and the Ethnographic collections are kept.  I was immediately drawn to the medieval shoes where the leather is worn, dark brown or black.  In addition to these, I have always been fascinated by historical movies and their costumes, which led me to the 18th century footwear, which are full of brocade and ribbons.

18th century brocade shoes.  Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

I enjoyed having the opportunity to examine the shoes for the simple reason that they are such a personal artifact.  They tell us so much about the wearer and the social context from which they come.  The shoes inform us about what was important to the wearer.  For example, they may have wanted to have the most eye-catching shoes at a ball, or keep their feet warm and dry during rainy season.  When my time of discovery in storage was complete I had only made it half way through the room!

On my second day at the Museum we took the ever popular Justin Bieber's shoes to Sick Kids Hospital, where they were put out on display during a rock star party.  Kids had the opportunity to come down to the atrium with their parents to enjoy music, arts and crafts and, most importantly, to get their picture taken with a teen dream's shoes!  The kids went wild for them!  Boys grinned behind the sneakers, while girls struck their best diva pose for the opportunity to have their picture taken with the 'Bieb's shoes!

Some young fans of the 'Biebs' pose with his shoes at SickKids

I have been lucky to take part in many field trips so far in my first three weeks at the Museum.  Besides Sick Kids, I also went on a trip to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg where two pairs of shoes which belonged to Marilyn Monroe and are now part of the BSM collection were on display as part of the McMichael's fabulous Marilyn Monroe exhibition.

Marilyn Monroe's shoes at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.  Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

One of the projects I will be undertaking during my time at the Bata Shoe Museum will be to curate a small exhibition on the B1 level of the Museum.  I'm excited to learn more about the collection and pick a topic which will be educational and informative.  I hope that it will be ready to install by August 2nd.  I am feeling confident that I have found the perfect topic for my exhibit, but I don't think I'm ready to give away that secret just yet!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Conservation Blog - Jazz Age Dress

By Conservator Ada Hopkins

Sometimes there isn't enough time to perform a compete treatment on an object and the resulting work I refer to fondly as 'guerilla conservation'.  It is done quickly, with minimal materials, but conservation intervention is adequate for the purpose; in this case displaying a dress on a mannequin.

For the Roaring Twenties exhibition the Museum borrowed two dresses from a private collector; one is decorated with sequins and beads; the other is cut-velvet.  As is usually the case with beaded dresses from this era, the weight of the decorative elements impact negatively on the extremely fine silk to which they are sewn.  This in combination with the stress of wear and 70+ years of dubious storage can cause the fabric to tear, primarily around the neckline and armholes.
Dress armhole - before
Interior view of silk crepeline

Dress armhole - after

The objective of the treatment was to support the tears and dangling beads and sequins to mitigate existing damage and prevent future deterioration.

Normally if there was more time I would have dyed the silk selected to back the tears a compatible colour, however, since it would not visible it ultimately did not matter.  Silk crepeline, a very fine and lightweight, was hand stitched to the back of the tears with silk thread sewn in a grid-like pattern to distribute the weight of the beads and sequins.  Seam binding was stitched to the shoulder seams to reinforce these weak areas.

The next step was mounting the dress onto the mannequin.  This is an art in itself.  One has to be familiar with the undergarments of the period so the dress will 'hang' in the appropriate manner.  I searched the library and online resources to find an image as a reference.  This resulted in two patterns manufactured for the home seamstress which are essentially rectangles with straps.  Very easy to duplicate!  A slip was made for each dress from a plain silk weave.
Mannequins in their slips

Mannequins having hair appli
Once the hair and shoes had been applied to the mannquins, they were installed inside the casework.  Then they were ready to be clothed: first the slip, then the dress and finally the arms. Et voila - two 'flappers' ready for a night on the town!
Dressed mannequins in the Roaring20s gallery