The Alfred Gillett Trust currently holds an extensive footwear collection of over 25,000 shoes. This includes examples of Clarks and competitors prototypes and production shoes, including men’s, women’s and children’s examples of shoes, boots, sandals, slippers, sporting shoes, pattens and shoe components.
The collection also includes historic items of footwear dating back to the Roman period, and a ‘world shoes’ collection assembled by members of the Clark family.
The collections are frequently used as an invaluable resource for study and research by Clarks staff, researchers and historians. The Alfred Gillett Trust are investing in new ways to increase the access to, and promotion of, the collections.
The Trust recently moved the collections into the Grange, a new archive and museum store near Clarks HQ in Street, Somerset, which also houses a reading room, a shoe consultation area, seminar and conference rooms, cataloguing areas, a photographic studio and staff offices.
Now that the long term care of the collections is secure, the collections also need some development work to ensure preservation and access in order to open up their potential. A new project has begun to repack, document and properly store the collection to preserve it for the future.
A significant part of this project is the digitisation of the shoe collection by creating a bank of images of the shoes, linked to the new collections database, allowing greater access to the shoes and limiting direct handling. The digitisation project is an invaluable opportunity to review the collections and assess their needs for research, conservation, packing and storage.
Each of the Trust’s 25,000 shoes will be individually photographed over the next two years by a new team of dedicated photographers and documentation staff. Before photographing, each shoe will catalogued, cleaned and re-packed to the best practice standards for museums.
After photographing, the images will be uploaded onto the Trust’s new database, so that future researchers and staff will be able to get detailed information about every shoe in the collection and browse the images. Initially only available to Clarks staff and researchers visiting the Grange, is is hoped that eventually part of the collection will be available online for the public to search.
Every shoe is being photographed from 6 different angles; the sole, top-down, left side, right side, back and front. A ‘cover shot’ of the single, pair, or shoe with its original box is then being taken. Detailed shots are also being taken of interesting items of note, such as original labels attached to the shoe or stamps and logos.
The RAW camera files are then processed to create high resolution TIFFs as master files and a variety of other file formats, including lower-resolution JPEGs for our database. We estimate that by the end of our project we will have over 60 TB of shoe images!