Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Museum Mystery Boxes: 1920s Metallic Dancing Shoes

Picture this:

I walk into the Kearny Museum's attic (always very cautious because that place is so terrifying not even spiders want to live there), looking for somewhere to store a Scottish kilt that was recently donated. The shelving units have been newly labelled by the Museum Committee. Sports Memorabilia, Lighting, Local Artists, Faux Greenery, Victorian Dresses...Victorian Dresses??

And there on the "Victorian Dresses" shelving unit were indeed boxes labeled all sorts of crazy things like "Fur Capelet," "Chef's Hat and Utensils," and "Black Tafata[sic] Gown."

Uh-oh. I had never seen any of these boxes or their supposed treasures. At once I felt both ecstatic and panicked. What would I find in these mystery boxes?

I pulled out one of the smallest boxes and carefully opened the lid, revealing a jumble of hot-pink tulle (which would be a recurring theme for the rest of the mystery boxes), yellowed napkins and dirty plastic bags. More digging and...ooooh, shiny!

Well what do you know, crammed inside a sandwhich bread bag (also a recurring theme for the mystery boxes, including bags of buns) was a pair of glittering, silver metallic 1920s evening shoes!


They are accompanied by a faded display card, and were at one point in time displayed with the beaded 1920s dress. The 1920s dress was also donated by Mrs. William Schreiber.


Indeed, the strap has an interesting mechanism wherein a metal hook is latched over the buckle. This fastening technique is still in use and I own a pair of modern heels that fasten this way.


Unfortunately, the shoes are in very poor condition. They must have been truly loved because the heel cap has been worn all the way through to the nail! The sole is peeling back at the front and heel, and the metallic leather is flaking and cracked. There are several slices in the leather, the largest being on the inner left side of the right shoe. The rhinestoned buckles are also missing one or two stones, and the insoles have begun to detach.




The shoes were stored and likely displayed without the necessary support. The lack of foot-shaped support to hold out the shoe possibly led to the irreparable splits in the leather. I will be making muslin-shaped "feet" stuffed with polyfill to support the shoe and its straps. The shoes will then be displayed alongside the beaded 1920s dress in its glass case.

Stay tuned for dozens of more Museum goodies, including an 1867 mourning dress, an enormous tatted lace collar, children's button-up boots, a fur capelet, a fur muff of exaggerated Edwardian proportions, 19th century drawers, a taxidermied bird, an unusual piece of embroidery, beaded gloves, and much more!

Also, the inexplicable and widespread use of bread bags and hot pink tulle for storing antique pieces will be explored.

2 comments:

  1. I so enjoy your conservation/preservation posts, you provide a fascinating education and wonderful peeks at vintage craftsmanship and beauty. Definitely staying tuned!

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