A world renowned collection of over 13,000 artifacts
The mission of the Bata Shoe Museum is to communicate the central role of footwear in the shaping the social and cultural life of humanity. Through acquiring, conserving, researching, interpreting and exhibiting material evidence of the history of footwear and shoemaking, the museum illustrates the changing habits, lifestyles, culture and customs of the world’s inhabitants. The BSM’s international collection of over 13,000 artifacts spans 4,500 years of history.
The Bata Shoe Museum is home to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of shoes and footwear-related objects. In addition, it is an internationally recognized centre for footwear research that sponsors field research, publishes research findings and promotes education.
At present, the permanent collection contains artifacts from virtually every culture in the world. Where else could you find French chestnut-crushing boots under the same roof as delicately-embroidered Chinese silk shoes, bear fur shoes made for Japanese samurai warriors and footwear made from human hair?
A rare and well-preserved velvet-covered platform chopine from 16th-century Italy is one of the great treasures of the museum’s fashion footwear collection, which ranges chronologically from the Italian Renaissance to the catwalks of today’s designers. This chopine – so tall that the wearer could not walk unaided – provides an interesting introduction to other equally outrageous shoe styles introduced over the centuries. Salvatore Ferragamo and Vivienne Westwood weren’t the first designers to think of platforms; nor, if history teaches us anything, will they be the last.
One of the most important aspects of the BSM’s holdings is an extensive collection of Indigenous North American and circumpolar footwear. This collection, along with the fieldwork commissioned to study indigenous shoemaking, have greatly contributed to the scholarship of shoes.
Among the collection’s most popular features is an extensive assortment of celebrity footwear, including Queen Victoria’s ballroom slippers, Robert Redford’s cowboy boots, Elton John’s monogrammed silver platform boots, Terry Fox’s running shoe, Elvis Presley’s blue patent loafers, Karen Kain’s ballet shoes and John Lennon’s Beatle boot.
The museum’s archaeological collection includes footwear from some of the earliest civilizations on earth: ancient Egyptian sarcophagi with painted sandal designs, leg-shaped perfume vials made by an ancient Greek potter, and Roman bronze lamps representing sandal-clad feet. The collection also includes intriguing examples of medieval footwear.
But the BSM’s collection doesn’t stop at shoes. We also have a companion collection of shoe-shaped ornamental artefacts such as majolica hand-warmers and inlaid fruitwood snuffboxes, as well as graphic material from 14th-century woodcut prints and 19th-century caricature lithographs to original paintings and sculptures.