Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center
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"Footnotes: Shoes with Stories to Tell "

On view Oct. 4 through Feb. 16, 2014

Throughout the years, Alaskans’ methods of adorning and protecting their feet have expressed identity, status, survival and enjoyment of life in the North. In northern climes, shoes are more than a simple covering of the foot. Wearers must adapt not only to physical elements but also to cultural ones. 

Footnotes: Shoes with Stories to Tell explores the cultural and aesthetic nuances of function and fashion in northern footwear. From Native-made ivory ice cleats and ceremonial mukluks to heeled slippers worn by gold rush dancing girls, the footwear in this exhibition showcases life in Alaska from the ground up. The majority of the items are pulled from the museum’s collection of more than 400 examples. 

Viewers will discover how one Mrs. Alaska paid homage to her state with custom-made high-heeled Xtratufs and how the military — originally ill-equipped for conditions in Alaska — adopted shoe technology from Alaska Native designs and materials. 

Some examples commemorate moments of personal glory, like boots cast in bronze by a geologist after his first oil discovery. Others, like the sneaker snatched from a zoo visitor by Binky the polar bear, recall infamous moments in Alaska lore. Footnotes offers a walking, running and dancing trip through Alaskans’ fascination with the souls of their soles.

Mrs. Alaska Xtratufs/Amanda Heath Photography

Mrs. Alaska Xtratufs/Amanda Heath Photography