Northampton Borough Council
Northampton Borough Council

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The Cinderella Syndrome: Displaying shoes in museums

Over the past year the Shoe Heritage Development Officer has become involved in critical conversations with members of the public, museum professionals and academics regarding the challenges of displaying shoes. There is a real organisational need to explore and learn more about shoe display in engaging audiences and to embed that learning into the strategy for the shoe collection.

The project need is twofold.

1 To explore the issues of displaying shoes in engaging and innovative ways and the transferability and sustainability of such learning beyond the life of the project.

2. To explore the value of temporarily raising the profile of the collection with audiences in non-museum environments; assessing whether this impacts on the overall long term support of and interest in the collection.


Displaying shoes

It would seem that a successful formula for displaying shoes is yet to be realised and yet many museums have shoes as part their costume collections. At NMAG, there are regular public complaints about the light levels in our galleries as a result of a lack of understanding of the conservation issues of the collection. Perhaps - if our shoes were displayed more innovatively - light levels may become less of a problem. This concern regarding the displaying of shoes is noted in the seminal publication ‘Shoes: A history from sandals to sneakers’: ’Shoes are a nightmare for museum curators and provide a challenging experience for window dressers. As worn shoes soil very easily, and as their materials (such as leather) tend to corrode more swiftly than woven textiles, the ‘worn’ shoe in the museum can have a slightly forlorn appearance. Even when their provenance is famous, such as the shoes in the Marlene Dietrich Archive in Berlin, they will most likely be abject items of clothing. ‘

As the carers of a designated collection of footwear, we must continue to develop the expertise of our organisation and staff to best serve that collection and its current and potential audiences. We must also raise our profile as a sector leader in shoe heritage and continuously seek to engage with academic research in this area.


Project Partners

Northampton Museums and Art Gallery

Canons Ashby, National Trust


Project board

Chair: Paul Lander, Interim Museum Manager, Northampton Borough Council

Project Manager: Jane Seddon, Shoe Heritage Development Officer, Northampton Borough Council

Project Officer: Ellen Sampson

Project Academic: Dr Natalie McCreesh

Project Partner: Laura Malpas, Visitor Services Manager at Canons Ashby, National Trust

Shoe Collection representative: Rebecca Shawcross, Shoe Resources Officer, Northampton Borough Council


Royal Exchange shoes and the designers

Pretty ballerina

Crockett & Jones

Harrys of London

The Cinderella Project: Displaying Shoes Symposium 

Please click here if you are interested in our Displaying Shoes Symposium.


Westfield: My Favourite Shoes Exhibition

Please click here if you are interested in our pop up exhibition showcasing some of the most exciting contemporary shoe designers working in the UK at London's ultimate luxury shopping destination, Westfield Shepherd's Bush. 

The Cinderella Syndrome Project at Canons Ashby - Stepping Into the Past

Please click here if you are interested in our workshop - challenge of displaying very special and rare shoes in a non-museum setting. 

The Cinderella Syndrome Project - Case Study

Please click here to read The Cinderella Syndrome case study. 


For Further Information

Please contact Jane Seddon on