Art and Innovation: Traditional Arctic Footwear from the Bata Shoe Museum Collection
Now on view 

160210-Arctic-033fAt the top of the world, the Arctic spans over fourteen million square kilometers and includes eight countries. While its landscape seems harsh and inhospitable, over forty distinct culture groups have thrived there for centuries. Among the most beautiful and innovative is the diverse footwear and clothing created to meet environmental challenges and express culture meanings. Drawing from the BSM’s extensive circumpolar holdings and building upon information gathered during the Museum-sponsored field research trips to all Arctic nations, Art and Innovation showcases a vast variety of footwear, garments and tools, highlighting the artistry and ingenuity of the makers, and revealing different cultural identities, crafting techniques and spiritual meanings.

In tandem with the exhibition, we have launched a new blog series – The Arctic Landscape, which highlights the different geographical regions that make up the Arctic (Greenland, Alaska, Siberia, Sápmi and Canada) and features exhibition highlights and rare field images from the museum-funded research trips. The fourth post, Siberia discusses the use of reindeer skin by different groups in Siberia, including its techniques and functions. Click below to read more.

 

This pair of Khanty boots features felted strips sewn into the seam, as well as wool pompoms just below the knee. Image © 2016 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (Photo: Ron Wood)
This pair of Khanty boots features felted strips sewn into the seam, as well as wool pompoms just below the knee. Image © 2016 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (Photo: Ron Wood)

For centuries, Siberia has been the traditional home to numerous indigenous groups including the Nenets, Evens, Evenki, and Chukchi. In many of these communities, reindeer husbandry was historically an important economic and cultural practice. In addition to their valuable meat, reindeer provide warm furs which are crucial in an environment where temperatures can drop as low as – 50 degrees Celsius. The Siberian boots featured in our exhibit, Art and Innovation: Arctic Footwear form the Bata Shoe Museum Collection, are all made from reindeer fur, and feature a wide variety of cuts, colors and styles, illustrating the creativity and cultural diversity of this region.

Reindeer skins were often harvested in the late summer or the early fall, just as their coats started to thicken. In the spring, these coats were quite thin and filled with holes made by flies whereas in the winter, they were too thick bulky to be of use when sewing clothing.

Click here to read the entire post and additional images.

In this episode of the BSM’s web series “The World at Your Feet”, Senior Curator Elizabeth Semmelhack examines the techniques and skills used by Canadian Inuit women to create intricate and beautiful designs on traditional kamiks.