Wednesday, April 9, 2008

These boots were made for walking....

but now they're in a museum so no one is allowed to use them for walking, running, dancing, or even hanging out on the couch watching tv. And they're not boots, really, they're moccasins.

Over the past couple weeks I spent some time rehousing the moccasin collection. We have 17.5 pairs of moccasins, ranging from so tiny that they must be for a doll to mens sizes, and 1 pair of child's mukluks. Some of them were pretty much flat after being in storage for years (you know how a light canvas sneaker flops over? It's kind of like that. Shoes don't always hold their shape.), while others had some paper stuffing which gave them some support.
Original stuffing.
None had storage which allowed easy lifting while minimizing physical contact. So, taking a page from the Minnestoa Historical Society (which has really excellent information on their website, by the way), I set out to make custom supports for the moccasins, both internal and external.

I started with the moccasins, like this one. It had no internal support, although the large amount of beading held the shape of the foot fairly effectively.

Then I looked at what I had on hand: Cotton stockinette fabric, polyester quilt batting, scissors, and a sewing kit. The scissors, by the way, are distressingly dull. Must remember to sharpen those sometime.

For my first try, I made a rectangular pillow:
Experiment one: Rectangles

Okay, so it was approximately rectangular. I'm a collections manager, not a seamstress. But look how nicely it supports the back of the moccasin:
Stuffed form

But, it occurred to me, feet are not rectangular. So the rest of the moccasin support inserts were made to be roughly foot shaped. Again, I emphasize roughly.
Experiment 2:  Vaguely foot shaped ovals

And check out the sole of the shoe above. Looks like it was recycled from a parfleche, or some other similarly decorated object.

And finally, after sewing 33 supports, all the moccasins were supported. I endeavored to recreate the external support which the MHS had utilized, and, ultimately, I think it worked out pretty well. Ours are made of acid free card board with a tissue paper layer on which the moccasins sit (because the cardboard is buffered and the tissue paper is not).
Top view

Top view

Side view

The freshly housed moccasins were returned to their wooden drawers where they will patiently await the move to a new facility.
Drawer storage

Ultimately, this kind of storage will reduce the need for handling the moccasins which will help preserve them for a longer time. Feels like a happy ending to me!

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I really enjoyed this entry--and all of the other entries that I have read so far, actually. I randomly came across this blog while searching for a museum-related blog to review for an assignment in my curatorship course (due tomorrow--yikes!!). The step-by-step photos and concise descriptions are engaging and informative (the pop culture references are also fun!). Thank you for creating this blog!!