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!


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  2. Thank you for an accurate and delicate description of what historical shoes really mean for an exploration and thus our understanding of past, lifestyle of people from different periods and places, their values, ... Team of The Bata Shoe Museum does a great job, that´s why it is worthy of being described as one of the most interesting museums of Toronto.