Rachel is 7 years old, loves going to museums and was thrilled to discover the various ancient and modern footwear at the only museum dedicated to shoes. When the founder Sonja Bata, started to collect footwear in the 40s she was amazed to discover true ‘finds’ around the world, a few dating back as far as 5,000 BCE.
Few know that the Bata Shoe Company has its headquarters in Toronto and Mrs. Bata, has always been very involved in an executive position in the international company. And, not surprisingly, she has had the passion and adventurous spirit to assemble this world class collection of 13,000 artifacts. The exhibits change every few months.
As for the building which is in downtown Toronto and opened in 1995, it is situated on one of the most prominent corners in the area.
Designed by the acclaimed Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama, from the outside, it appears to be a glass and brick ediface resembling a shoe box. Inside, it is spacious, bright and the usage of light wood seems to create great space. Also, Moriyama was sensitive to the needs to preserve these treasures so the lighting is somewhat dim and the large room temperature controlled.
Although and with good reason, all the shoes on exhibit are encased in glass to prevent deterioration, there is a sweet area where children (and adults too) have the opportunity to touch and linger over a few shoes which are cleverly stored in drawers of benches shaped like feet.
And here at the Bata Museum, there aren’t just period shoes but select pairs from the twenties and up to the present times.
On the second level, there is a terrific documentary about various personalities and their footwear, which are there to be seen.
From Sir Elton John, Elvis Presley, Sir Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe and many more celebrated personalities whose famous feet have donned the shoes, it’s a rare collection and easily related to.
However, most unique shoes were searched for throughout the world and purchased by the museum. But it’s the ancient leather sandels, the “Lotus” Chinese silk footwear, the bejeweled with precious stones and those made of silver and gold, that seem compel the museum goers to lingers, discuss and review.
From ancient times to the Renaissance Chopines and Baroque Heels to Red Carpet stars stilettoes, they have all left their ‘footprints’ at the Bata Shoe Museum.
The following is a article by my granddaughter who love museums, and along with the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Science Centre, Rachel has now become a devotee of the Bata Shoe Museum.
Bata Shoe Museum
By Rachel Kingstone
Shoes are one of the most important artifacts in history. The Bata Shoe museum is a great place to learn that. The architecture of the building is beautiful, according to my grandmother Baba, as well.
We were there yesterday, and I found that the fact that Chinese women once bound their feet was a highlight for me. The shoes they wore were tiny, the size of a six-year-old’s feet, and had a very pointy “toe”. They were very colourful; in fact they were one of the most colourful pairs of shoes I saw all day!
In the Islam section, there were lots of interesting shoes. My favourite ones were beautiful green shoes with silver embroidery. If I were a girl living in those ancient times, I would wear them every day!!!
Here are some other cool shoes:
India-gold, jade, etc.-formal footwear
India-“Platform shoes”- silver, gold-meant to keep a king’s feet off the ground
Egypt-sandals-worn in 2278 to 2565 B.C.
Anasazi- shoes from 1st century
Christianity-1. White with black embroidery 2.Green shoes with green embroidery 3. Pink with elaborate gold embroidery
China-red silk shoes embroidered with dragon symbols
What I learned was that shoes help people understand the lifestyle of those in other times and other places. I feel that shoes are an important part of human civilization, then and now. By going to the Bata Shoe museum, you too will learn the importance of shoes.
Next time in Toronto, let feet walk you to the Bata Shoe Museum.