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Depot, St. Louis Science Center partner to offer special displays

Sunday, September 14, 2008

(Photo)
Mike Marsh, director of the Sikeston Depot, talks about some of the shoes in the newest display. The collection is a loan from the St. Louis Science Center, which the Depot has a new relationship with to borrow items. Michelle Felter, Staff
SIKESTON -- What began as a mission to find a shoe for the world's tallest man at the Sikeston Depot turned into a full display of unique shoes from around the world, and a partnership that will benefit the museum for years to come.

"This is the beginning of a relationship we've started with the St. Louis Science Center," said Mike Marsh, director of the Depot. 'They will loan us things for up to a year and we already have our eyes on some more displays."

It all came about when Depot volunteer Marcia Manning was looking for a size 34 shoe for another display at the museum. That size is worn by Robert Wadlow, the world's tallest man, who was featured in an exhibit at the Depot.

(Photo)
Mike Marsh, director of the Sikeston Depot, holds a Chinese "foot binding" shoe in his hand. The small shoes, worn by royal woman, have drawn quite a bit of interest. Michelle Felter, Staff
Manning never found that size shoe. "But she called me and said that she had made a contact at the St. Louis Science Center and made an appointment for me to go to St. Louis and meet this person," said Marsh.

He explained that the Science Center is often given displays -- for instance, the shoes now at the Depot were a collection by the International Shoe Company in St. Louis. The company donated the items when it went out of business there.

"And the Science Center now has a storehouse nearby where all these things are catalogued and protected," said Marsh. "There are over 100,000 artifacts and we're going to have access to some of them."

The current display features 19 different shoes from around the world. "They're relatively rare and it's an interesting display," said Marsh.

The shoe that garners the most interest are the Chinese "foot binding" shoes. "Those are the ones everybody has been looking at the most," said Marsh.

The shoes are small and resemble those a newborn baby would wear. "People say 'How could they walk on those shoes,'" said Marsh. "But the point is, they didn't."

He went on to explain those shoes were worn by royal woman in China, whose feet were tied in the shoes at birth. "It was a sign of royal blood," he said. And since the royals were carried wherever they went, there was no need for them to walk, Marsh continued.

Another style that's caught the eye of many is a wooden pair of women's heels, with a pearl inlay, from Lebanon. Also on display are shoes from Albania, Belgium, Mexico and Japan, to name a few.

Marsh said the shoes will be on display until December.

And he is thinking ahead for some of the other collections he'd like to bring to Sikeston.

For instance, there is a display of Native American items Marsh said he'd like to have during next year's Cowboy Up! festival. Another interesting display he saw while meandering through the storehouse included medical instruments.

Some of the exhibits from the Science Center will also supplement what children learn in school, said Marsh.

"We talked this week at our board meeting about tying in future displays with the school curriculum," said Marsh. "We invite all the schools to come, or to tell us what displays they would be interested in."

He noted the displays will not be too large, and instead just take up one or two cases.

"It's nothing that's going to come in and dominate the museum," said Marsh. "But it will be something extra that we don't normally have access to."