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From Heel to Toe: The Costume Institute Shoe Rehousing Project

Purpose

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently reopened following a major renovation including the construction of a new collections storage facility. The goal of our project is to create long-term, archival, modular mounts while adhering to conservation ethics and the space constraints of the new collections facility. A secondary goal of the project is to create a cohesive mounting system across the collection. Previously, shoes were kept in a wide variety of storage systems, none of which were considered ideal for use in the new facility.

 

Author(s)

Rebecca Bacheller
The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10028
Tel: (212) 396-1110
Email: Rebecca.bacheller@metmuseum.org

Lauren Helliwell
The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10028
Tel: (212) 396-1110
Email: Lauren.helliwell@metmuseum.org

Photo Credits:  Rebecca Bacheller

Publication: 2014

 

Description

Shoes are pressure-fit using Ethafoam heel and toe supports adhered to an archival blue board handling tray. Without ties or tissue coverings, the support system allows for greater visual and tactile accessibility to the object while minimizing handling.

Fig. 1: Completed shoe mount

Fig. 1: Completed shoe mount

Materials Tools Supplies

The materials for the basic mount include precut archival blue boards, Thermogrip Hot-Melt Adhesive glue, glue gun, 3/8 inch twill tape and Ethafoam tri-rod. As tri-rod is no longer available, Ethafoam cut into half-inch strips may be substituted. If Ethafoam is deemed too abrasive, it should be covered in strips of Tyvek. Musetex polyester batting and 2-inch stockinette are used for the internal supports. If batting filled stockinette pillows are deemed too abrasive, Japanese Lens Tissue may be used as an alternative interior support.

Construction

1) After measuring the shoes, handling boards are selected at the smallest size that will accommodate the shoe with a one inch buffer on all sides.

2) Once the appropriate size is selected, shoes are placed on the board to confirm spacing. In order to maximize the space, shoes are placed toe to heel so that the interior of the left and the exterior of the right are facing the outside of the board. (Fig. 2)

Fig. 2:  Spacing is confirmed on the archival handling tray and the toe is traced.

Fig. 2: Spacing is confirmed on the archival handling tray and the toe is traced.

3) The toe area is traced and a piece of tri-rod is cut long enough to secure the front of the shoe. The tri-rod is then cut in half, leaving two half-inch thick pieces of equal lengths. Slits are cut into the tri-rod at half inch intervals to allow flexibility. (Fig. 3)

Fig. 3: Tri-rod is cut to enclose the toe and glued to the handling board.

Fig. 3: Tri-rod is cut to enclose the toe and glued to the handling board.

4) Repeat the process for the heel.

5) Check stability, the shoe should not wobble within the mount yet be removable without causing friction. (Fig. 4)

Fig. 4: After the heel support is glued, the stability of the shoe in mount is checked.

Fig. 4: After the heel support is glued, the stability of the shoe in mount is checked.

6) Twill handles are added. (Fig. 6)

7) Internal supports are created by cutting two pieces of polyester batting which is placed inside 2-inch stockinette for each shoe. Leave extra length of stockinette to allow each end to be tucked instead of sewn. (Fig. 5)

Fig. 5: Pieces of Musetex polyester batting are cut to size and placed inside a length of two inch stockinette; the ends of the stockinette are then tucked in, creating a barrier between the batting and the shoe.

Fig. 5: Pieces of Musetex polyester batting are cut to size and placed inside a length of two inch stockinette; the ends of the stockinette are then tucked in, creating a barrier between the batting and the shoe.

Fig. 6: Completed mount with internal supports and twill tape handles.

Comments

Internal support modifications:

1) Tyvek pillows – If a shoe requires internal support to retain its shape over time but its interior is fragile or damaged, stockinette pillows may sometimes still be used but covered in a softer material, Tyvek, to be less abrasive to the shoe’s interior.

2) Tissue supports – If the shoe is considered so fragile that inserting or removing a stockinette pillow could harm it but the shoe is still at risk for collapse over time, a tissue support may be considered instead.

External support modifications:

1) Tyvek – To create a smoother surface for the shoe to rest against, Tyvek is added to the Ethafoam supports before it is glued to the handling board. To do so, washed Tyvek is sewn through the top and bottom of the Ethafoam so the thread does not come in contact with the shoe.

2) Ski Slopes – Used for high heels to stabilize the shoe at the arch without having to tie it to the tray. The shape of the arch is carved from a 2-inch block of Ethafoam, Volara is then glued to the surface of support, and the finished ramp is glued in place. (Fig. 7)

Fig. 7: Ski Slopes - external support modification.

Fig. 7: Ski Slopes – external support modification.

3) Triangle Wedges – If the exterior is very fragile or heavily embellished, triangles of Ethafoam can be cut into half inch segments and glued around the shoe to create a cradle which prevents the shoe from moving without touching the upper of the shoe. (Fig. 8)

Figure 8: Triangle Wedges, external support modification.

Figure 8: Triangle Wedges, external support modification.

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