Boots & Blades: Research and Planning during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Behind the scenes at the Bata Shoe Museum these days, we are working on a virtual exhibition that will be called Boots & Blades: The Story of Canadian Figure Skating. Launching on Family Day in 2022, it will explore both the artistry and athleticism of this thrilling sport, from its early beginnings in the 1600s to the present. This digital experience is being developed by the Bata Shoe Museum with an investment by Digital Museums Canada (

Fancy leisure skates from the 1780s, dating prior to the development of Canadian figure skating. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

As the Project Lead, I am working with Astra Burka, Creative Producer, and our partners Skate Canada and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. The project’s team of advisors include a wealth of individuals who have been involved in the sport over the last 90 years, including Joyce Hisey, Carole Pixley, Maria Jelinek, Elizabeth Knebli and Wilf Langevin.

Skates from the Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.
Skates from the Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.

A great deal of work on the site is going on even during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the second lockdown happened here in Toronto in January, we needed to take home all the tools we needed so we could keep the work flow going. I took some reference photos of the skates in the Bata Shoe Museum’s collection just before leaving the museum so these could be used as ‘stand ins’ until I could get back into the museum again. These quick ‘snaps’ aren’t very good looking photographs, but they are allowing Astra and I to continue to do research and make webpage plans while the museum is closed.

Skates from the Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.

Beautiful, high resolution photography of these artefacts had been planned for the summer of 2020, but again due to COVID-19, those plans had to be cancelled. I am hoping that I can get back in the building to photograph these skates properly before the end of April, which is our deadline for sending the final photography to Akufen, the web design company in Montreal that is designing the site.

Skates from the Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.

In addition to historical pieces, the Bata Shoe Museum content will include figure skates worn by skating greats Sonja Henie, Petra Burka, Denise Biellmann, Brian Orser, Jamie Salé and David Pelletier.

Over 100 artefacts representing 400 years of history will be selected to tell the myriad stories of figure skating, drawing on the Bata Shoe Museum collection and from the collections of Skate Canada, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, and private collectors.

Watch for more news on Boots & Blades here as we get nearer to the launch date on Family Day in 2022!

Suzanne Petersen Collection Manager

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