Collected in the Field: Shoemaking Traditions From Around the World


The seeds of the Bata Shoe Museum were sown in the field when Mrs. Sonja Bata began to travel the world with her husband on business. At each distant destination she found herself marvelling at how different traditional footwear was around the world and she began to collect examples. Her early collecting became the foundation of the Museum that would grow to include over 13,000 artefacts.

Join us beginning January 18th as our newest exhibition opens to the public. Highlighting the history of shoemaking traditions, many of which are slowly disappearing, the exhibition will feature field trips that have brought a wealth of in-depth information to the Museum. Visitors can learn from the voices of the makers, see the images of their processes and amaze in the diversity of traditional footwear reflecting a variety of world cultures.

Maasai, 1951. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum
Cattle are central to Maasai life and provide for most of their basic needs from food to footwear. The soles of the sandals are cut from un-tanned cowhide which typically feature a sharply squared toe and the thongs that secure the sandal to the foot are fastened with an elaborate knot. These sandals were collected by Mrs. Bata.
Image 2013 © Bata Shoe Museum

Dutch, 1987. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum
Many clogs were made for specialized jobs. The flat-soled clog seen here was worn by gardeners to smooth the ground after they had sown seeds. It was made of willow rather than the more typical poplar because it is less absorbent making it ideal for working in wet, spring conditions.
Image 2013 © Bata Shoe Museum

Mongolia, Early 20th century. Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum.
In 2006 Ruth Malloy was fortunate to be able to acquire this exceptional pair of historic boots worn by Dondoghulam, the first consort of the last ruler of Mongolia, Bogd Javzandamba Agvaanluvsan the 8th. Her husband declared independence from China in 1911 and ruled from 1911 to 1924 when the monarchy was abolished. The intricately embroidered boots were accompanied by a letter of authenticity from a scholar at the Institute of Culture and Education in Ulaanbaatar who described them as an example of “undiluted” Mongolian style. Mongolia, Early 20th century.
Image 2013 © Bata Shoe Museum

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