Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum offers just the right fit for anyone who thinks of Manolo Blahnik as a modern master or always wondered about the origins of go-go boots.
As a Toronto native, I had always passed by the museum with a considerable degree of curiosity, but had never visited the striking contemporary building by Raymond Moriyama.
Recently, I stepped inside to educate myself further about my all-time, favorite accessory.
A glass “wedge” of sorts frames the entrance through which you can see the small gift shop and ticket desk. For anyone with a thing for shoes, there’s an open area with all sorts of footwear, a mirror and a sign, reading: “Try them on…you know you want to!” Of course, I did.
Moving on to the semi-permanent exhibit “All About Shoes: Footwear Through the Ages,” I perused through some 4,500 years of shoe history. On display are everything from chestnut crushing clogs, sabatons and button boots, to astronaut shoes, glass slippers and haute couture pumps.
Upstairs is the museum’s “Star Turns” exhibit, where I got to ogle autographed shoes from the likes of actor Pierce Brosna and tennis great Roger Federer, along with a shoe belonging to Canadian cancer activist and amputee Terry Fox; a pair of boots worn by movie and music icon Judy Garland; and even socks favored by Napoleon Bonaparte.
I also checked out the semi-permanent, “Beauty, Identity, Pride: Native North American Footwear,” featuring “discovery drawers” with samples of different types of fur used to make moccasins and information on the use of pigments in the American Southwest.
My visit happened to coincide with the final day of the museum’s temporary exhibition, “Roger Vivier: Process to Perfection,” showcasing stunning pumps and high-heeled boots by the designer who started his career in the 1950’s with Christian Dior.
tct-bata-bootThe exhibition is now closed, making room for “Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture,” which runs from April 25, 2013, through March 30, 2014, but the Vivier materials are still accessible via podcasts on the museum’s website. “Out of the Box” promises to be the the first exhibition in North America to examine the history of sneaker culture.
Although I left my little children at home, the Bata offers regular weekend events that will surely keep your kids more entertained than a typical trip to the shoe store.
Every Saturday and Sunday, there are crafts and activities for children ages five to 12. April’s craft of the month is shoe magnets; each child receives a bag of supplies on admission. The museum’s four, relatively compact floors of exhibits are also quite reasonable for a little one’s short attention span.