Monday, 21 November 2016

The story of a shoe ...

Inuit shoe 1886.1.747 © Pitt Rivers Museum
This Inuit shoe (1886.1.747), made of sealskin, was collected by Arctic explorer George Francis Lyon during his voyages in the 1820s. Lyon commanded HMS Hecla under Sir William Parry in 1821, and HMS Griper in 1824, both voyages seeking the North West Passage. The second voyage was a failure—the anchor chains were lost in a storm which also badly damaged the masts and rigging.  Having barely made it back to England, Lyon was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1825, and the record for this shoe says it was presented by him to Oxford in that year.

Lyon was perhaps more successful as an adventurer and early anthropologist than as an explorer. He had many interactions with Inuit people on these voyages and was tattood by them. His writings on Inuit people during these voyages have proven valuable to scholars since.

Sole of shoe 1886.1.747 © Pitt Rivers Museum
This shoe once had four strips of fur on the sole for grip on snow. It is exquisitely sewn with sinew (animal tendon) and part of an outfit designed for survival in the Arctic.

Laura Peers
Curator for Americas, Pitt Rivers Museum &
Professor of Museum Anthropology, School of Anthropology

See this shoe and more footwear made of animal skin on display in the Leatherwork case (L.63.A) on the Lower Gallery.