Bata Shoe Museum

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The following article was researched and written by Navpreet Bajwa. More contributors.


Significance of the Bata Shoe Museum

The Bata Shoe Museum is significant to Canadian history because for years, movie stars have left their footprints in the "Walk of Fame" on Hollywood Boulevard. The Bata Shoe Museum has its own walk of fame in a growing collection of famous people's footwear from every arena: artists and authors like Picasso and Margaret Atwood; performers like Mikhail Barishnikov and Glenn Gould; film stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Gloria Swanson; politicians like Indira Gandhi and Winston Churchill; as well as sports figures like Donovan Bailey and John McEnroe. These famous people leave their mark for Canadians and for history. The Bata Shoe Museum lets everyone see the different types of traditional wear, and learn about how others created them.


Background of the Bata Shoe Museum

Since the 1940's, Mrs. Bata, Founding Chairman of The 'Bata Shoe Museum Foundation, has scoured the world for shoes of every portrayal, from the most everyday to the most surprising. Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum features more than 10,000 shoes and related artifacts, including footwear from the Inuit, items from the workbenches of rural traveling shoemakers, leftovers of early mass production and more.

Her own obsession for shoes aside, Mrs. Bata's endless pursuit has resulted in one of the world's finest collections and North America's exclusive shoe museum. Certainly, it is fortunate for students of history and fashion alike that Mrs. Bata's participation in the shoe industry and her common business travels have allowed her the chance to build such an unparalleled collection with its wealth of historical information.

Viewed chronologically, shoes outline a path through scientific development and mark even the difficult to describe shifts in a society's attitudes and values. In particular, a survey of shoes illustrates whole ways of life, demonstrating as it does the social status, climate, religion, sex, and professions of different people throughout the ages. Viewed individually, they are attractive. Whether they're objects of beauty or instruments of torment, shoes are surely signs of their times. (Amita, 1990:06)

In 1979, when the collection had outgrown available private storage space, the Bata family established The Bata Shoe Museum Foundation to administer the collection more efficiently and to create a center of familiarity about the role of footwear in the social and cultural life of mankind. Over the years, the Foundation has expanded its activities. It has, for instance, funded various field trips to collect and research footwear in areas where traditions are changing rapidly. The lifestyle of the North American native people and some of the circumpolar cultures including Siberia, Alaska, Greenland and Lapland have been the focus of some studies. The Foundation has also funded the publication of various academic material including "The Typology of Native Footwear", "Pride of the Indian Wardrobe" on Athapaskan footwear, "The Spirit of Siberia" and "Our Boots: An Inuit Woman's Art". The main objective of the Foundation is, however to establish and operate a enduring home for the collection of more than 10,000 shoes and related items. (Bata shoe archives, 1982:06)

On May 6, 1995, The Bata Shoe Museum opened its doors at 327 Bloor Street West. The five-storey, 39,000 square foot building, designed by Moriyama and Teshima Architects, is truly unique. As a world class specialized museum, it has become a major destination point for both visitors and residents alike. The shoes will be housed and displayed in a five-story building designed by Raymond Moriyama and reminiscent of a shoebox. (New York Times Magazine, 1995.04:23)


Bibliography for the Bata Shoe Museum

  • Adil, Mahmood. Pride of the Indian Wardrobe. Newfoundland: media network Group, 1991.
  • Ko, Dorothy. Every Step a Lotus: Shoes for Bound Feet. China: The Bata Shoe Museum Foundation, 2001.
  • McDonald, Ryan. New York Times Magazine. New York, 1995.