Shoe & Tell at the Whyte

"Shoes accompany us on all our journeys. 

They say who we are, where we came from and where we are going."

Pamela Knott, Curatorial Assistant, showing the Canmore Shoe Project group shoes from the Whyte Museum collection.
Last week the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies had some very special visitors come in to take a behind-the-scenes tour of our heritage collection area. The ladies of the Canmore Shoe Project were more than happy to take a few hours out of the first nice spring day of the year to take a tour with Curatorial Assistant Pamela Knott down into the vault to see highlights of the shoes in our collection. 

The Canmore Shoe Project is a writing and performance workshop where immigrant women from all over the world tell the stories of their arrival in Canada - through a pair of shoes. The Shoe Project was originally created by novelist Katherine Govier and supported by the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. The Canmore contingent of the Shoe Project is organized by Canadian novelist Marina Endicott, who coaches the participants in writing their shoe memoirs. Some of the countries represented in the Canmore Shoe Project group includes India, Japan, South Korea, Tibet, and the Czech Republic.

The idea is that writing shoe memoirs gives these women a voice that can be heard in the Canadian conversation.They get to tell their own unique stories about coming to Canada, while at the same time learning English writing and performance skills.

During their tour Pam Knott showed them a variety of different shoes from our heritage collection. Many of the shoes came from our founders Peter and Catharine Whyte. A large pair of leather boots with upturned toes called "gotols" were acquired by Peter and Catharine while travelling in Mongolia. Once back in Banff, they used the boots during the winter months to trek through the snow to get firewood. Pam also showed the group slippers from China that women with bound feet would have worn, First Nations moccasins with beautiful beaded designs, and hobnailed boots worn by early mountaineers to help them up difficult terrain. Pam even shared a personal story about a pair of snakeskin heels she bought but never got the chance to wear.                                                                                 


The stories behind the shoes made an obvious impact on the women. Looking around the room heads were nodding as Pam Knott told the stories of the shoes, their previous owners, and how they made their way to Banff. You could tell that the wheels were turning as the women made their way to our Board Room to begin writing their own stories. 

The Canmore Shoe Project group at the Whyte Museum.



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