The Northampton Museum is renowned for its collections of decorative and fine art as well as social history which includes 35,000 geological specimens, 5,000 leather items, and 5,000 military items. However, one of the more interesting collections involves the largest accumulations of shoes in the entire world. From the footwear worn by the ancient Egyptians to modern and contemporary British styles, the museum has over 12,000 different shoes. The following are the three primary exhibits.
History of Shoes
There are several sub-collections starting with the earlier shoes that were found in the Americas, Japan, and Polynesia prior to the rise of the Roman Empire. Shoes from the Roman occupation of Britain that are on display include the calceus, caliga, and gallica styles worn by the Roman Military.
There are also displays of shoes worn in the Middle Ages and Tudor Era. Next, there are the square-toed shoes of the 17th century and the elaborate-patterned shoes of the 18th century. Men’s boot and women’s court styles of the 19th century highlight that era in history, while the shoes of the 20th century range from the bar shoes of the 1920’s up to the platform shoes of the Disco Era of the 1970’s.
Highlights of the Shoe Collection
There are several pairs of shoes that highlight the collection ranging from the 17th century to the 20th century. Here are a few of the more significant ones:
- - Lady Mary Stanhope’s blue velvet, embroidered shoes c. 1660
- - Wellington black leather dress boots 1830-35
- - Black Wellington leather dress boots worn by Prince Albert between 1840 and 1850
- - Queen Victoria’s white satin wedding day shoes worn February 10th, 1840
- - Women’s embroidered red velvet shoes c. 1920
- - Women’s heel-less black suede and silver lizard skin court shoes
Needless to say, these examples are just a handful of the many that give a glimpse of several eras in history.
Shoes from Around the World
In addition to the above, there is the exhibit that highlights shoe styles from around the world and at different times during the 19th and 20th centuries including:
19th century shoes – Chinese women’s bound foot shoes, east Chinese Manchu women’s shoes, Ghana men’s leather sandals, Indian toe peg sandals, Mesopotamian leather boots, Moroccan camel hide slippers, Native American footwear, and women’s Turkish bath clogs
20th century shoes – French men’s sabots, leather cowboy boots, Japanese women’s getas, and Nigerian clog sandals.
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