The gentleman on the door of
Museu del Calçat, aone-room shoe museum, must be well into his eighties, but he’s very sprightly and friendly. He offers a selection of small scribbled notes with various dates for each cabinet, which don’t always make things much clearer. I sneaked a few photos although photography is not strictly allowed – he gently told me off, but I don't mind as he called me señorita, that hasn't happened in a long while.
The collection contains many originals dating as far back as the 17th century as well as reproductions of earlier footwear. The collection includes tools, patterns, leather samples, illustrations, all kinds of shoes large and small from around the world. It's no V&A, but has some lovely exhibits and while slightly shabby is utterly charming. The tiniest 'shoes' in the collection are a pair carved from two olive stones, the biggest (with the accompanying last) made especially to fit the Columbus statue in Barcelona Harbour. Other unusual footwear includes black bridal shoes, peculiar to Cataluña, jewel-encrusted heels for dance shoes and intricately embroidered white leather children's shoes.
del Calçat, Plaça
Sant Felip Neri 5
Let us give thanks to Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers, whose formidable passion for archaeology and ethnology resulted in the core collection of the museum which bears his name.
Housed in a beautiful Victorian structure which sits at the end of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers is strange and wonderful. Elegant glass cases are packed with exhibits of varying provenance and vintage – musical instruments, masks, toys, clothes, weapons, coins. Drawers beneath the cases, some of which can be opened by visitors, are jammed with still more objects. The visitor is overwhelmed. The room is dark, totem poles loom; canoes, spears, paddles are suspended from the ceilings.
The collection rambles over three floors, each packed with yet more exhibits delivering a fresh sense of wonder and a different perspective on the peculiarities, idiosyncrasies and similarities of all humankind.
Pitt Rivers Museum, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW
At Busy Beaver they don't just make buttons* in their milions - round, square, metallic, oval - they love them too. Such is their devotion that the company's beautiful new building now houses its own button museum.
In an old dairy tucked away off a side street in Primrose Hill are displayed some of Peter Blake’s many collections: circus posters, freak show postcards, dolls and taxidermy tableaux. It is a curious selection, some of which might be creepy were it not for the good-natured enthusiasm of the whole endeavour. Blake’s cheerful captions describe the work on show, and offer an insight into his collecting habits, which seem opportunistic rather than obsessive, a happy accumulator of wondrous objects rather than a grim completist.
Faintly sinister but hugely seductive, this unlikely museum is dedicated to the slaughter and subsequent preservation or consumption of animals: what we call hunting, and the French know rather more romantically as La Chasse.
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