20 October 2009

Bata Shoe Museum

I guess I should just get the discussion of museum architecture out of the way with this one -- Raymond Moriyama's exterior fits in well with Libeskind's down the street, and the galleries are galleries.

But I still don't know what to think about this museum.  Probably I'm a bit disappointed, because I had different expectations.  I thought I was going to see something very eurocentric (because I am!) and that would discuss the honorable history of the Baťa brand.  Nope.  Not bad that it wasn't completely eurocentric (in fact, that was a great strength) but I was expecting something else.

The exhibits were some of the most designed I've ever seen.  Of course, every exhibit has tons of design involved, and lots of time is spent thinking about it, but this one was designed -- to the extent that it was obviously not done in-house but rather by exhibit design firms.  That's ok, but it lacks the sort of museopunk feel that can be found even in huge museums like the Met or MoMA or Museum of Natural History.

The galleries were dark for preservation purposes - thank God for high ISO.

It was an interesting choice to have the shoes so low - which maybe makes sense because shoes are usually on the ground.

They had a huge emphasis on First Nations footwear, and put non-Western shoes in the same linear time trajectory, which was cool -- and how you have an image of a sculpture of Julius Caesar with the word 'Anasazi' under it.  

My Sperry Top-Sider loafers next to Indira Gandhi's footprint.

The current temporary exhibit Bound for Glory: Cutting-Edge Winter Sports Footwear also had the first Wiis I'd seen in a museum setting.  But I couldn't figure out why they were there and it was an awkward integration.  Edutainment?

Lots of the permanent collection was displayed with an open storage style in mind.  I like this because it deconstructs the museum, shows a lot of objects, and can be used to help visitors understand how museums work.  Again, though, really designed.

Napoleon's socks

some nice Victorian shoes with peacocks - which I admire but would never wear

Conservation Department

It was cool to see the Conservation Department - which also had some great labeling about what they do, how and why (also the preservation v. restoration explanation).  Again, so important, and so great to explain to visitors about the inside of a museum.  I wonder though, if working in a space like this is too much like working in a fishbowl?

My visit was about an hour, which was enough.  Despite it's unusual contents, this is a very professional, serious museum.

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