Northampton Museum and Art Gallery

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Northampton Museum and Art Gallery
The main entrance to Northampton Museum
The main entrance to Northampton Museum
Established 1884
Location Guildhall Road, Northampton, England
Coordinates 52°14′12″N 0°53′41″W / 52.2366°N 0.8946°W / 52.2366; -0.8946Coordinates: 52°14′12″N 0°53′41″W / 52.2366°N 0.8946°W / 52.2366; -0.8946

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is a public museum in the Cultural Quarter of Northampton, England. The museum is owned and run by Northampton Borough Council and claims to house the largest collection of shoes in the world, with over 12,000 pairs.[1]

The town's museum was established in 1865, but moved to the current site in 1884, where it shared its space with the town's library. After the library moved in 1910, the museum took over the whole building.[2] In 2012, the museum was refurbished for better access.[1] The museum closed in February 2017 to allow work to start on a major expansion project; the new museum is expected to re-open in late 2018.[3]


1970s women's boot

The museum has been collecting footwear since the 1870s and now boasts the largest collection of shoes in the world, which was designated as being of international importance by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in 1997.[4] The ground floor is given over to the display of some of the museum's 12,000 pairs of shoes, spanning the period from the Ancient Egyptians to the present day.[5] There are also two galleries dedicated to footwear: Life & Sole focuses on the history of shoemaking and contains a re-creation of an old shoe factory; Followers of Fashion concentrates on the history of fashions in footwear throughout the centuries.[6] Some of the paintings on display reflect the museum's focus on footwear, such as the 17th-19th century Dutch and Flemish works by Jan Miel and Hendrik van Oort featuring cobblers, shoemakers and shoeshiners.[7] As long-time Keeper of the Boot and Shoe Collection, curator June Swann played a significant role in its development. She began in 1950, and worked there for 38 years.[8]

The second and third floors of the museum house exhibits about Northampton's history and displays of Oriental ceramics and Italian art from the 15th to the 18th century.[6]

Sekhemka statue controversy[edit]

The museum conducted a controversial sale of an Ancient Egyptian statue of Sekhemka in July 2014, with questions relating to the ownership and the ethics of selling the statue being raised by various organizations. The statue was sold to an unknown buyer for £15.76m, which broke the existing world record for Ancient Egyptian artwork at auction. On 1 August 2014, Northampton Museums had its accreditation removed by the Arts Council England, which ruled that the sale broke the required standards for how museums manage their collections; loss of accreditation includes ineligibility for a range of arts grants and funding, and is in effect until at the earliest, August 2019.[9]

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