Travels with the BSM: Taiwan

I have had the good fortune to be able to travel as a representative of the BSM to install artefacts or exhibitions in museums around the world. The first trip was to Taipei, Taiwan in June 2001. The Canadian Trade Office (CTO), based in Taipei, contacted Mrs. Bata to see if it would be possible to send a curated exhibition on the history of Western fashion footwear. The exhibition was part of a greater CTO initiative that included the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), as well as several Canadian authors.

The exhibition, Shoes in Fashion from 200 to 2000, was planned in Toronto without the aid of email when faxes were the default means of long distance communications. John Vollmer, Vollmer Cultural Consultants Inc., was the project manager/curator/catalogue author and Reich + Petch were the exhibit/casework designers. The planning had its challenges: different primary languages, completely different time zones and multiple parties trying to bring everything together in a timely fashion so that casework could be fabricated and catalogues printed in Taiwan.

Left:catalogue front cover © Bata Shoe Museum Right: back of catalogue, photo by Ron Wood

Once all the conservation and condition reports were completed, everything was packed into five crates and shipped via Air Canada to Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport, Taipei. The artefacts, which arrived a week before John and myself, were picked up by drivers from National Museum of History (NMH), the host institution.

We had one day to ourselves and took in as many cultural sites as possible: National Palace Museum, Shung Ye Museum (featuring the belongings of Taiwanese indigenous peoples) displaying artefacts on loan from the ROM, and the Hsing Tien Temple.

Left: National Palace Museum, Peellden, Right: Hsing Tien Temple,

It took us four days to install the exhibition. We were assisted by a volunteer, who had completed a work placement at the BSM, and just happened to be visiting a friend in Taipei. Cora Ginsberg LLC, based in New York City, loaned a woman’s 18th century dress to augment the exhibition. The threads on some of the seams had disintegrated over time, and with the owner’s permission, John and I performed a round of guerilla textile conservation one evening using a repair kit provided by the hotel in which we were staying, along with supplies from a local fabric store.

The staff at the NMH were most accommodating, making repairs to broken casework as we experienced two earthquakes over a period of twelve hours. We accomplished a lot in a short period of time aided by many strong Taiwanese iced coffee to combat the jet lag which never seemed to go away! We took our lunch breaks in the museum’s cafeteria, next to the incredibly beautiful lotus pond behind the NMH.

The opening of the exhibition was celebrated with officials from the Taiwanese and Canadian governments as well as Mr. and Mrs. Bata. The day was concluded with a lovely dinner at the home of the head of the Canadian Office of Trade, overlooking the city.

Ada Hopkins

BSM Conservator

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