Friday, May 31, 2013

Traveling with The Roaring Twenties

by Ada Hopkins, Conservator

On May 20 Sarah Beam-Borg (BSM Asst. Curator/Exhibit Project Manager) and I flew to St. John’s, Newfoundland to install the exhibition The Roaring 20s: Heels, Hemlines and High Spirits at the provincial museum called The Rooms which sits on top of the hill overlooking the harbour. The Rooms, which opened in 2005, is a cultural facility featuring an archives, art gallery, and theatre as well as the museum.

Three crates of artifacts had been sent several weeks in advance and all the original wall panels were delivered by truck in April. When we arrived at The Rooms on Tuesday morning we were greeted by staff and given a quick tour of the museum, the storage areas and the conservation lab. It’s always exciting to go behind-the-scenes in other institutions and see what projects they are working on. The graphic panels and display cases were already installed in the gallery so we set to work immediately unpacking and checking condition reports for all the shoes and the Vuitton shoe trunk. Once we’d ascertained that everything had arrived in good condition it was time to place the shoes with their attendant labels.

Unpacking the Vuitton shoe trunk
Shoes for the Vuitton trunk display

There were several items of clothing from The Rooms’ collection that provided a nice addition to the BSM artifacts including 4 cloche and 2 beaded dresses. These were either made in Newfoundland or worn by a resident of the province. On the last day of set up, the lighting designer came in to adjust the light levels which protects the artifacts and helps establish the overall mood.

Vuitton trunk ready to be slid into the showcase
Sarah installing the shoes

It’s always interesting to see an exhibition travel to another institution. In this instance the gallery is slightly larger which gives the display cases an opportunity to ‘breathe’ creating an airier feel to the exhibition.
We concluded our trip to St. John’s with a boat tour that took us out of the harbour, through the ‘Narrows’ into the Atlantic Ocean and down the coast. Before returning to the dock we cruised into a little bay called Quidi Vidi. The following day we rented a car for a trip to Cape Spear, Petty Harbour, Signal Hill and a view of Quidi Vidi from the land!!

View of St. John's harbour and The Narrows from inside The Rooms
Cape Spear: the eastern most location in North America - Next stop Greenland!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Fun Facts About Sneakers!

By Sarah Van Hove, communications intern.

After a short hiatus, we are happy to be back with new and exciting posts that are “all about shoes”. Over the following weeks and months, you can expect interesting and fun facts about shoes, a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the museum, news about upcoming events and so much more!

This time, it’s all about the sneaker, the focus of our newest exhibition. Elizabeth Semmelhack is the Bata Shoe Museum’s Senior Curator and she is the perfect person to tell you everything you need to know about sneakers. 

So let's start things off with some curious and cool facts about sneakers!

Did you know …

… that the word “sneaker” comes from “sneaking around”? Because of the rubber soles you are able to walk around a lot quieter!

… that natural rubber or “caoutchouc” comes from the rubber tree?

… that high-heeled sneakers are nothing new? The first high-heeled sneaker was designed in 1925; there were deep concerns that women’s participation in athletics would detract from their femininity, so heels were added to reinforce their femininity.

… that the Nike Air Force I is one of the best-selling sneakers of all time and it was never advertised?

Collection of Nike Archives. Image © 2013 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada

… that Run-DMC was the first music group ever to get a contract with a sneaker brand? Their deal with adidas became a long-term success story.

… the rising nationalism in the 1930s democratized the sneaker?

… that Adi Dassler, the founder of adidas, took a huge risk when he offered his athletic shoes to Jesse Owens in 1936? At the height of Nazism, a German shoemaker making shoes for an African American athlete from a rival country was a very risky gesture.

… that the Nike Waffle Trainer was invented when Nike founder Bill Bowerman poured rubber into his wife’s waffle-maker?
Collection of Northampton Museums and Art Gallery. Image © 2013 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada

Intriguing, right? You can find out a lot more about sneakers and sneaker culture at the Bata Shoe Museum.

Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture is on display now till March 30, 2014 and a lot of interesting activities and lectures are still coming up. You can find all the information on our website