Looking for a unique way to spend a winter day in Toronto? The city is home to a number of world-class themed museums — from the Hockey Hall of Fame, a shrine to the national pastime, to the Gardiner Museum, dedicated entirely to the ceramic arts. But if you’re a fan of fancy footwear nothing tops the Bata Shoe Museum. Here are a few reasons you should visit.
The award-winning, four-storey building designed by architect Raymond Moriyama is truly a sight to behold. The limestone walls are designed to respond to natural light, ranging in colour from a warm golden glow in the brighter hours of the day to an array of mauve and magenta tones as the sun begins to drop. The museum’s main entrance on Bloor Street is a striking glass wedge that allows a sneak peak into the interior from the street. Inside, references to the art of shoemaking — like leather signage and cast bronze medallions with images of shoes on the staircase handrails — make it impossible to forget where you are.
A World-Class Collection
The museum houses the largest shoe collection in the world and celebrates footwear in all its forms throughout four impressive galleries. The permanent collection of over 13,000 artifacts ranges from Chinese bound-foot shoes and Egyptian sandals to Queen Victoria’s ballroom slippers and glamorous platforms by Salvatore Ferragamo. The collection includes footwear from some of the world’s earliest civilizations spanning back 4,500 years. Looking for something unusual? Here you’ll find bear fur shoes crafted for Samurai warriors, footwear made from human hair, boots designed specifically to crush chestnuts and so much more.
A Unique Learning Experience
The museum is the brainchild of footwear heiress Sonja Bata, who established the Bata Shoe Museum Foundation in 1979 when her collection outgrew her home. The museum is in fact an international centre for research, documenting the history of footwear and preserving the handiwork of cultures from around the world. If you think of shoes in purely practical or aesthetic terms, think again — the collection will inspire you to consider how factors like climate, gender, trade and social status determine what we put on our feet.