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Worshipful Company of Cordwainers

Stepping into Northampton’s new footwear gallery

Posted by: JHM Date: 17 Feb 2020

Opening on 20 June 2020, the expansion of Northampton Museum & Art Gallery is great news for footwear fans. Northampton’s unrivalled historic shoe collection will have a dedicated new gallery.

With a series of distinct sections that look at those who design, make and wear shoes, the new shoe gallery showcases the history of shoe fashions in the Western world from 5300 BC to the present day. The displays demonstrate how a limited number of shoe styles with certain key characteristics keep returning, as designers and makers create endless variations influenced by evolving materials, manufacturing processes and world events.

The design process is at the heart of fabulous footwear and the new displays explore how three very different shoe designers create their individual looks and brands. The visitor will be able to see how a shoe is manufactured, looking at bespoke, Northamptonshire factory-made and mass production methods.

A section on choosing footwear looks at the many reasons we choose our shoes, from the practicalities of protection, comfort and mobility, to the way we can be seduced by advertising, influenced by celebrity endorsements or simply love shoe-shopping.

Shoes are powerful symbols that can express status, power, sexuality, wealth, identity, cultural and religious background. The museum examines why we wear the shoes we do.

The final section will display some of the collection’s most iconic footwear, such as Queen Victoria’s wedding shoes, David Beckhams’ football boots, Moira Shearer’s ballet shoes from The Red Shoes and a pair of miniature bread shoes made by an Italian prisoner of war in the 1940s.

Northampton has more than 15,000 shoes, as well as items relating to footwear design and fashion, manufacture and social history, but is always looking to develop the collection further through donations and bequests. The museum is interested in mid-20th to contemporary designer footwear, including such designers as Roger Vivier, early Salvatore Ferragamo and André Courrèges.

If you have shoes that belonged to a famous or significant person, or shoes that reflect exceptional or everyday stories, the museum would love to hear from you. They are also keen to increase the best trainer collection in a public museum.

If you can help, please contact the Senior Shoe Curator Rebecca Shawcross by emailing rshawcross@northampton.gov.uk