Night of Science in Innsbruck

Our mobile collection left on a trip to Austria. The aim of our expedition is participating in the “Night of Science” at the University of Innsbruck. We also seized the opportunity to surprise other institutions, including a center for the visually impaired and a school.

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We wanted to offer the opportunity for others too. The long day began at St. Raphael Centre for the visually impaired. The fact that our collection can also be seen with hands is ideal for such an audience. The surprise was complete for the residents of this home: A museum that travels to them with plenty of things to “look at”. It was an emotional moment to break the residents daily routine and share some unforgettable moments. 5,000 years of shoe history passed from one hand to another and each object was carefully examined by interested and curious fingers.

An hour later the entire collection was on a long table in the main auditorium at the  Volders School, a few kilometres from Innsbruck. A power-point presentation showed our working methods and examples of results and insights about ancient footwear. The presentation was followed by examples of reconstructions brought on site. I was facing the problem that there wouldn’t be enough time to let twice a hundred kids march along the exhibition table for all to see in less than an hour. My decision was spontaneous. I took a shoe after another and threw it into the audience after a brief explanation of the object in question. Never in my life I have I thrown so many shoes at kids and with total impunity. 😉 The picture in the gallery may show how captivated the audience was by this presentation. Imagine a room with over a hundred teens and no other sound than my own voice… unforgettable indeed. 😉

In the late afternoon it was time for the real reason for our trip, an event for the “Night of Science” at the University of Innsbruck. The banner of our small museum proudly annouced our presence at the entry of the three story high university aula where our entire collection was spread on long tables.

This intervention is part of a campaign for the Archaeology Department because there is an urgent need of specialists in ancient leather. More and more leather gets discovered there in recent years. Remember this is the same university that had to deal with the Iceman finds the so called “Ötzi” and his equipment. Next to our display tables where a few show cases displaying some examples of a phenomenal medieval shoe find from the castle of Lengberg, barely damaged by time with all the threads still in place. This same find also contains a huge treasure of medieval textile. There are boxes and crates full of leather just waiting for an expert to reveal its secrets of ancient shoemaking. The lack of resources and experts on site is putting this study on hold for the time being. At least we could teach a few students at our Museum lab in Lausanne to deal with emergencies in the case of such finds .

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