The Shoe Diaries

July 14, 2010

Welcome to Shoe Diary Wednesdays!

We are pleased to partner with the Morris Museum on a guest blog series for the next four Wednesdays to highlight their current exhibition, The Shoe Must Go On. The exhibition includes over 300 different shoes and explores shoes from many different “walks” of life.

This first shoe diary entry comes from Linda Moore, Chief Operating Officer of the Museum and co-curator of the exhibition. Read more to discover how one exhibit can embrace such diverse individuals as Mary, Queen of Scots, Derek Jeter and General David Petraeus!

Dempster immune1_MorrisMuseum hi-res

From the “Art and Sole” section of the exhibit: shoe artist Marina Dempster’s Immune (2008)

What comes to mind when you consider shoes? High fashion accessories that you love, and can’t get enough of? Athletic footwear that will improve your performance? Or perhaps it’s the unique footwear you’ve encountered in global travels?

In planning the shoe exhibition, I was intrigued by the fascinating stories embedded in this common object (which people have been wearing for about 40,000 years according to anthropologists). When you look at a shoe, it may excite you visually as a work of art; it may surprise you with the contemporary styling depicted in historical shoes such as Martha Washington’s slippers, or it may intrigue you that until the early 20th century, Chinese women had bound feet to fit in tiny shoes, 3” long, or that contemporary women squeeze their feet into high fashion shoes with 7” heels.

Because we all wear footwear, the shoes on view have universal appeal, and provide unique insights into design, work and entertainment, across time, culture and geography.

Bound Shoe

Chinese shoes for bound feet, on loan from the Newark Museum

The museum’s Costume Curator, Elizabeth Laba and I started planning the exhibition by exploring the museum’s historic costume holdings. We were fascinated by the way the humble shoe provided a springboard for more than 15 different themes for the exhibition, ranging from History and Politics to Celebrity Shoes to Sports and Recreation.

For example, for the show’s opening, we hosted a Girls’ Night Out party. One of our visitors, who is a self-proclaimed “shoe-aholic “ and an Anglophile who focuses on Tudor history, came to the event. Upon seeing Mary, Queen of Scots’ shoe, her reaction was, “Wow, that shoe is pretty small, considering that the Queen was 6 feet tall!” I learned something new about Mary, Queen of Scots, and my friend had a new perspective on someone about whom she has read volumes.

Another visitor came to the party looking forward to an all-fashion evening – and wound up texting her 13 year old son several times, with pictures of athletic shoes from sports greats such as Derek Jeter, Muhammad Ali and Mark Sanchez.

Sports shoes

Shoes from famous athletes

While the Morris Museum has a significant costume collection, this exhibition was enriched by loans from other cultural and historical organizations, including the Newark Museum, Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, Morris County Historical Society at Acorn Hall and the National Park Service at Washington Headquarters, and Thomas Edison National Historical Park, as well as many individual lenders.

In curating the exhibition, we also reached out to many distinguished individuals with special ties to New Jersey. This enhanced the exhibition with contributions ranging from Yogi Berra’s athletic shoes; to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s cast, which she wore when she broke her ankle during Senate confirmation hearings; to General David Petraeus’s army boot.

Please share your shoe stories with us! Post a comment about the most interesting shoes you’ve seen or the favorite pair you owned, or, if you’ve seen the exhibit, please tell us which were your favorites!

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The Morris Museum is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m. We are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Admission: $10 for adults; $7 for children/students/seniors.
General admission is free on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m.

Guided tours of the exhibition are offered every Saturday at 1 p.m.

When you visit the Morris Museum’s The Shoe Must Go On! exhibition, donate a pair of shoes and receive $1.00 off admission. All shoe donations go to “CUMAC – Feeding People and Changing Lives” in Paterson, NJ.

Please note, the museum will be closed to the public from August 9 to August 15, inclusive.