Bata Shoe Museum

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Bata Shoe Museum
Bata Shoe Museum.jpg
Bata Shoe Museum is located in Toronto
Bata Shoe Museum
Location of the museum in Toronto
Established May 6, 1995 (1995-05-06)
Location 327 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Canada
Coordinates 43°40′02″N 79°24′01″W / 43.667278°N 79.400139°W / 43.667278; -79.400139
Type Calceology
Curator Elizabeth Semmelhack
Public transit access Spadina
St. George
510 Spadina

The Bata Shoe Museum is a footwear museum in downtown Toronto, Canada, located at Bloor St. and St George St. in the Bloor St. Culture Corridor. The museum collects, researches, preserves, and exhibits footwear from around the world. It offers four exhibitions, three of which are time-limited, lectures, performances and family events. The collection contains over 13,500 items from throughout history, as well as the present, and is the only museum in North America dedicated solely to the history of footwear.[citation needed]


The collection which became the Bata Shoe Museum was started by Sonja Bata in the 1940s.[citation needed] As she travelled the world on business with her husband, Thomas J. Bata of the Bata Shoe Company, she gradually built up a collection of traditional footwear from the areas she was visiting. In 1979, the Bata family established the Bata Shoe Museum Foundation to operate an international centre for footwear research and house the collection. From 1979 to 1994, the collection was stored at the offices of Bata Limited in the Don Mills area of Toronto. In June 1992, the Bata Shoe Museum opened a gallery on the second floor of the Colonnade, an office and retail complex in downtown Toronto, where it remained until November 1994. On May 6, 1995, the current museum opened its doors to the public in its own newly constructed building.


Upper level exterior of the museum building

Designed by Raymond Moriyama and completed in 1995, the structure sits on the southwest corner of Bloor and St. George Streets in downtown Toronto. Its form is derived from the idea of the museum as a container. Taking this further and associating it with footwear, Raymond Moriyama stated that the building is meant to evoke an opening shoe box, realised in a somewhat deconstructivist form with its canted walls and its copper-clad roof offset from the walls of the building below in an interesting play of volume and void. The main facade (north) along Bloor Street pinches inward to where the entrance, in the form of a glass shard, emerges, creating a more generous forecourt. This glass protrusion is one end of a multi-level 'cut' through the building which contains the main vertical circulation, providing a clear view through the building to the three-story faceted glass wall, designed by Lutz Haufschild, on the south facade. The entire stone volume appears to float above a ribbon of glass display windows on street level, and its vast expanse of limestone glows in the late afternoon sunlight.

Outside the museum entrance

Raymond Moriyama , was asked by his client Sonja Bata to create a “small gem of a museum” to house her extensive shoe collection. After viewing the shoes that Sonja Bata has collected, Moriyama strove to create a building that emulated the excitement that he felt when first viewing the collection. He wanted to create a museum that would endure time, and inspire its visitors. Mr. Moriyama explained: “When I first viewed the collection, I was impressed by the array of shoe boxes that protected the shoes from light, moisture, and dust and played an important role in the collection.” His focus on the idea of a container or shoebox was the driving force behind his design. When looking at the museum from the street, it is quite easy to see that its proportions are similar to those of a regular shoebox. The bold roof of the museum is suggestive of a lid, and from the street below it looks as if it is resting on top of an open container. The roof is made of copper that will oxidize and over time will become a more pronounced part of the museum.

Raymond Moriyama said of the edifice: "Architecture is never the creation of the architect alone. The museum's architecture should be seen as a celebration not only of shoes but also of the wonderful vision that brought them into the public eye."

The Museum is part of the Bloor Street Culture Corridor, a mile which contains 13 museums and cultural institutions in heart of Toronto.[1]

The Bata Shoe Museum was featured in an episode of The Amazing Race: Family Edition, for which the contestants were in Toronto. Teams had to choose a pair of shoes, and find the woman who fit the selected pair amongst 100 candidates.

Galleries and collections[edit]

Christian Louboutin shoe at Bata Shoe Museum

The museum is home to the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of shoes and footwear-related artifacts.[citation needed] The publicly accessible part of the building consists of four stories, which contain four galleries, two lecture and multi-purpose rooms, a gift shop, and a lobby, as well as offices and conservation facilities. The museum was designed to follow a circulation core where towards the east lies the exhibition galleries, towards the west are the gift shops, multipurpose rooms, special exhibition showcases and rooms, and the administrative desk. An enclosed courtyard runs across the south side of the building. There are two lower levels dedicated to an exhibition gallery and the shoe research and storage room. Typical of most museums, the gallery spaces are neutral in design, allowing focus on the creative displays, not the building itself. However, traditional materials such as cast bronze and leather (an important material in shoe creation for centuries) are used in signage throughout the museum.

The museum is currently divided into 4 main exhibits: 'All about Shoes: Footwear Through the Ages', 'Beauty,Identity, Pride: Native North American Footwear', 'Collected in the Field: Shoemaking Stories from Around the World' and 'Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century'.

The mirror display shows the red sole that Christian Louboutin shoes are famous for.

At present, the permanent collection contains artifacts from virtually every culture in the world.[citation needed] One of the most important aspects of the museum's holdings is an extensive collection of Native American and circumpolar footwear. The museum's assortment of celebrity footwear is a popular attraction; it includes ballroom slippers worn by Queen Victoria, the monogrammed silver platform boots of Elton John, a Terry Fox running shoe, white and blue patent loafers of Elvis Presley and John Lennon's Beatle boot.

The museum usually houses four exhibitions, one semi-permanent and three time-limited and changing. The semi-permanent exhibition, All About Shoes: Footwear Through the Ages, features diverse footwear from many historical periods and geographic areas, and looks at its significance in various cultural practices and phases of life. The three changing exhibitions are usually on display for one to two years, and may focus on a specific time period, cultural group, geographic area, or an aspect of material culture. The footwear on display, often remarkable for its construction and/or embellishment, also acts as a key to understanding its times, and illustrates social and cultural developments.

Past Exhibitions[edit]

  • 'All About Shoes: Footwear Through the Ages (May 1995 – ongoing)
  • Inuit Boots: A Women’s Art (May 1995 – May 1996)
  • One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: Illustrations from Contemporary Children’s Books about Shoes (May 1995 – April 1996)
  • The Gentle Step – The Ladies Realm of Fashion 1800 – 1900 (May 1995 – February 1997)
  • Shoe Dreams: Designs by Andrea Pfister (May 1996 – January 1997)
  • Tradition and Innovation: Northern Athapaskan Footwear (June 1996 –June 1997)
  • Rock and Sole – Basketball footwear (February 1997 – November 1997)
  • Dance! - Minuet to Disco (March 1997 – February 1999)
  • Loose Tongues and Lost Soles: Shoes in Cartoon and Caricature (spring – fall 1997)
  • Footwear Fantasia: Shoe Sculptures by Garry Greenwood (April – November 1997)
  • The Taming of the Shoe: From Attic to Exhibition (November 1997 – October 1998)
  • Spirit of Siberia (June 1997 – June 1998); Dance! (March 1997 – February 1999)
  • Little Feats: A Celebration of Children’s Shoes (October 1998 – May 1999)
  • Footsteps on the Sacred Earth: Southwestern Native Footwear (July 1998 – June 1999)
  • Japanese Footgear: Walking the Path of Innovation (February 1999 – January 2000)
  • Herbert and Beth Levine: An American Pair (June 1999 – December 1999)
  • Paduka: Feet and Footwear in the Indian Tradition (July 1999 – June 2000)
  • Every Step a Lotus: Shoes in the Lives of Chinese Women from Late Imperial China (2001)
  • Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Foot(2001)
  • The Perfect Pair: Wedding Shoe Stories (2002–2004)
  • Paths Across the Plains: Native Footwear of the Great Plains (2004–2005);
  • Icons of Elegance: Influential Shoe Designers of the 20th century (2005–2007);
  • Watched by Heaven, Tied to Earth: Summoning Animal Protection for Chinese Children (2006–2007);
  • The Charm of Rococo: Femininity and Footwear of the 18th century (2006–2008);
  • Beauty, Identity, Pride: Native North American Footwear (2009 - closing date TBA);
  • On Pointe:The Rise of the Ballet Shoe(2008-2009)
  • On a Pedestal: From Renaissance Chopines to Baroque Heels (2009 - September 20, 2010);
  • Socks: Between You and Your Shoes (2010)
  • Art in Shoes/Shoes in Art (2010)
  • Roaring 20’s: Hemlines, Heels and High Hopes (2011)
  • Roger Vivier: Process to Perfection (2012)
  • Collected in the Field: Shoemaking Traditions from Around the World(2013)
  • Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture (2013)


Research and programs[edit]

A prehistoric shoe, part of the museum's international collection of over 12,500 artifacts spanning 4,500 years of human history.

The Bata Shoe Museum conducts and sponsors research into understanding of the role of footwear in the social and cultural life of humanity. Through acquiring, conserving, researching, communication and exhibiting material evidence related to the history of footwear and shoemaking, the museum illustrates the living habits, the culture and the customs of people. Its international collection of over 13,500 artifacts spans 4,500 years of history.

The Bata Shoe Museum Foundation has funded field trips to collect and research footwear in Asia, Europe, and circumpolar regions and cultures where traditions are changing rapidly (Siberia, Alaska, Greenland, the Canadian Inuit and the Saami people). The foundation has also produced academic publications, many of which are available online or in the museum's store.

The museum organizes lectures, performances, and social evenings, often with an ethnocultural focus or community partner. Events often illuminate a personal connection or a cultural context in which footwear was created. Themed family activities have included Family Fun Weekends, as well as special events featuring storytelling, music, arts and crafts, and trying on unusual and funky shoes. The museum holds an annual "Warm the Sole Sock Drive" fundraiser, which begins on World Kindness Day, to collect socks for donation to a local charity. An annual lecture series, The Founder's Lecture is held each November and is an annual, public event featuring an internationally recognized leading thinker engaged with the convergence of culture and society. Past lecturers have included Harold Koda, Margaret Visser and Karim Rashid.

The museum is affiliated with CMA, CHIN, Virtual Museum of Canada, Ontario Association of Art Galleries, and North American Reciprocal Museums.

Educational outreach[edit]

Approximately 10,000 students come to the museum every year on field trips. Teachers, students and non-students alike also visit the museum's online exhibitions: On Canadian Ground: Stories of Footwear in Early Canada and All About Shoes, which latter features artifacts and information from some of the Museum's most popular exhibitions. All About Shoes also provides teachers' resources with classroom activities and projects. The BSM educational program Step Ahead subsidizes curriculum-based museum education programs for at-risk children. Currently backed in part by BMO Financial Group, Step Ahead gives school children in at-risk communities the opportunity to participate in the Museum’s education program at no cost.


Arms of Bata Shoe Museum
Bata Shoe Museum Arms.svg
The arms of the Bata Shoe Museum consist of:[3]
Per chevron Or and Azure in chief two keys wards upwards to the dexter Azure and in base a boot Or.
Two griffins per fess Gules and Ermine winged Argent.
One Step at a Time

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bloor St. Culture Corridor -". Bloor St. Culture Corridor. Retrieved September 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Archive". Retrieved September 10, 2014. 
  3. ^ Canadian Heraldic Authority (Volume III), Ottawa, 1995, p. 10 


External links[edit]