Museums Unframed - The Bata Shoe Museum

Museums don’t have to mean long, silent hallways with a bunch of old stuff framed on the walls. In parks, galleries and halls of fame from Vegas to D.C., there are tons of cool things for your ogling pleasure.
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And you thought you spent too much on shoes! Swiss-born Sonja Bata, wife of a shoe manufacturer, has amassed thousands of pairs in the last 40 years, enough to warrant a well-appointed museum in To-ronto’s tony Yorkville neighborhood. Her collection, considered one of the world’s best, includes iconic footwear such as Elton John’s silver leather platform boots (on display through June). But the real standouts were never worn by anyone famous. John Lennon’s “Beatle boot” seems pedestrian com-pared to the multispiked, chestnut-crushing clogs from 19th-century France.

The museum’s main exhibit traces a path through the shoe’s historical and cultural development, from a reproduction found on a 5,300-year-old prehistoric man — the bearskin-soled bootie, with its grass-padded deerskin upper, looks amazingly like a shoe version of the Ugg — to sandals worn by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans through India, Africa, China and Europe. In the kids area, you’ll find an ex-hibit featuring the tiniest shoes all the way up to the largest ever made, as well as slippers that illustrate the Cinderella story in various countries.

Three smaller galleries house temporary exhibits. The Charm of Rococo: Femininity and Footwear in the 18th Century runs through May and chronicles the rise and fall of lavish heels in a space suggesting an opulent ballroom. Watched by Heaven, Tied to Earth: Summoning Animal Protection for Chinese Children runs through August and features shoes and garments decorated with the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Some of Bata’s favorite acquisitions — everything from Napo-leon’s black silk socks to turn-of-the-century Indian ankle bracelets — are showcased in Chronicles of Riches: Treasures from the Bata Shoe Museum, which runs through the end of the year. 

327 Bloor St. W., Toronto, Ontario; (416) 979-7799 or

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