Museum Window Shopping (Mexico City)

Mexico City. El Borcegui Museo del Calzado. Founded in 1865, the Borcegui shoe store has retained it’s old time ambiance.

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Like many shoe stores, the entry passes between outside vitrines, where visitors can leisurely window shop before they enter the store.

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Next to the store is an (almost) unmarked door that leads up a narrow stairway to the museum of footwear.

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How appropriate that the most prominent indication of the entry is the scuffed up doormat.

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The museum fills a single large room, enclosed by a partial balcony. The exhibition design, like the entry to the shoe store, consists of corridors of vitrine displays. But scaled to kaleidoscopic infinity.

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As sculptural and functional objects we wear on our feet, shoes are infinately variable and fascinating. But like most large collections of a single object, the consistency of scale is monotonous. Presented like the shoes in the store entry but with less interesting angles, the overall environment is tedious and overwhelming.

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Over exposure. Visitors are swimming in a sea of shoes, and some of them dart around nervously, scanning for highlights. Choosing which museum objects to focus on is like choosing what they might want to purchase in a store. “Browsing” to filter attention and save time is a shopping behavior that applies to exhibition visitor flow.

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The breadth of the collection is truly amazing, although the curatorial sections are almost indiscernible, in the swirl of floating footwear. It’s an invitation to explore shoes from multiple angles; anthropological historical, scientific and artistic.

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Regardless of the exhibition design (or lack of), everyday objects become extraordinary through the simple act of being placed on formal display. There is magical power in this, because everyone can relate to (in this case) shoes. An altered reality is created where visitors can marvel at common objects as if they were aliens who just landed on planet earth.

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When the “owner” appears it adds a welcome dimension; shoes customized for the specialized feats of famous humans.

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Messages written on the soul.

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At last the balcony is a parade of baffling miniatures.

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Beyond humans, the museum has made a connection to the famous rescue dog Frida, an earthquake heroine who wears blue booties. Fresh, locally relevant meaning-making.

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