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9 March 2014, 06:00
One of the largest shoe collections in the world is going to be digitised and made available online for everyone to see.
The virtual shoe collection will provide an accessible source of inspiration for designers, students, researchers and academics across the globe as well as for people who love shoes.
The project is part of a wider drive by Northampton Borough Council’s museum service to raise awareness of its world famous shoe collection and make it accessible to a greater audience.
Northampton museums have been collecting shoes since the 1870s and today there are over 12,000 pairs of shoes in the collection dating back from 1000BC to the present day. In 1997 the collection was given Designated status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in recognition of its national and international importance.
International shoe and fashion designers, academic institutions, researchers, filmmakers, TV, radio and print media as well as other museums and galleries use the collection as a resource, but currently only around five per cent of the collection is available digitally.
This latest initiative, which will increase access to the collection and raise its profile, has been made possible thanks to a successful bid by the council to Arts Council England for £69,900 in grant funding.
Councillor Brandon Eldred, Northampton Borough Council cabinet member responsible for museums, said: "This is a great opportunity for us to showcase the collection and share it with the widest possible audience.
It is also an opportunity for us to tap into income streams that are open to museums to generate income from image licensing. At the moment we licence our images for a fee but can’t satisfy all enquirers as the quality of images we have isn’t always good enough. We now live in a digital age and this is a fantastic opportunity for us to build a catalogue of print quality photos that are widely available."
Peter Knott, area director of Arts Council England, added: "Designated collections show the richness and variety of our country’s cultural heritage. Investing in digital technology will make it easier for people interested in shoe-design to access the Northampton shoe collection. It will also allow international audiences to explore Northampton’s shoe-making legacy."
Work will now start to photograph all of the shoes in the collection which will be featured online alongside descriptions of the shoes. The virtual collection is expected to be online by April 2016.