Category: News

Two new street names for the Rôtillon

A small celebration will be held this Friday, June 20 to inaugurate the completion of Rôtillon project. The streets are all newly paved with cobble stones and look great now. The final touch is a spring-clean of the remaining old buildings. The gaudy facades covered with graffitis and tags receive a fresh coat of  paint and we just completed the renovation project for the museum. We will open our doors to the public, but also set up a special booth about leather and tanning in the “Rue du Flon”. A currently nameless alley will receive the name of Tanners Alley (Ruelle des Tanneurs) to remember the past of this neighborhood. Also the long stairs next to the Café des Artisans will be called the Cobbler’s Stairs (Escaliers des savetiers) from now on. It fills our heart with joy to see that the city is finally giving credit to the industrious “leathery” past that flourished here a long time ago.

All secrets of ancient shoe making revealed

The results of 20 years of research are finally being published. The examination of over 4,000 shoe remains recovered by archaeologists throughout Europe tell us about the evolution of technique and fashion of footwear over a period of nearly 5’000 years. Marquita Volken’s Thesis is finally accessible to the public.

you can order the book here: //  or  Oxbow Books

The knowledge of how to make a shoe pattern was certainly the ancient shoemaker’s most closely guarded secret, passed from master to apprentice but never written down. Now, after 20 years of research, the principles for making ancient shoe patterns have been rediscovered. Marquita Volken uses the practical knowledge and research techniques developed by Olaf Goubitz in combination with the methods established by Carol van Driel-Murray and Willy Groenmann-van Waateringe to identify the 17 basic types of cutting patterns used for archaeological leather footwear. Over 400 named shoe styles are identified and presented within a chronological framework covering Prehistory, the Roman period, the Middle Ages and the early modern times. This comprehensive guide to European archaeological footwear is richly illustrated with drawings and photographs of archaeological leather shoe finds and shoe reconstructions. A catalogue presents each named shoe style along with the cutting patterns used, a concise description and a full list of the published examples. The volume also includes a short history of calceological studies, case studies, the fundamental research methods and an overview of shoe sole/upper constructions for archaeological leather shoes.

About the author: Marquita Volken holds degrees in philosophy, art history, fine art, and a doctorate degree in archaeology. She is the author and co-author of over 70 articles and book contributions about archaeological leather finds from Switzerland, The Netherlands, Austria, Germany, and France

you can order the book here:
or  Oxbow Books
or //

Pilgrim shoemakers from Holland

Our museum is just next to the Way of St.-James leading through Lausanne. Occasionally some pilgrims on their way to Santiago di Compostella in Galicia, Spain, also find their way to our museum. Needless to say that shoes where and still are the main means of locomotion for the pilgrims. Today we had the visit of two special pilgrims from the Netherlands, both also well initiated in the art of medieval shoe making. Occasionally you can encounter them at the archaeological park ARCHEON in Alphen a/d Rijn. For us it was a surprise visit of fellow shoemakers, for them a special discovery. We sat for hours and talked about medieval shoes and medieval shoe making.


Surprise visit

With a museum measuring barely 12 square meters (129 sq.ft) it becomes hard to deal with busloads of visitors. Occasionally it does happen that a travel organizer finds a reference to our museum and intends to send us a busload of people. Usually they check with us first for details to find out that this will not be possible, but this time they did not.

So what to do if you get a phone call asking if the museum is open within the next hour, you agree and an hour later you have 30 to 40 people showing up? We mastered the problem by putting out collection on a wall in front of our museum and improvised a guided tour of our collection out in the street. What looked at first as a confusion turned very quickly into a happy experience for all. Our luck was, that the weather was in our favor.

Pirate boots?

17th century soft riding boots
After a find from the Waddensee, nearby Groningen, Netherland

This would be the perfect boots for a pirate movie, but has anybody ever given a thought about the fact that horses where quite scarce on high sea and naval cavalry unheard of?

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Smallest shoe in the world

It is said one has to start small…

The smallest shoe known to the world measures 12μm (Micrometer) or 0,000472  Inch, a human hair is between 80 and 100μm thick. This sandal was specially made in 2005 for the smallest museum in town by Tristan Bret, then doctorial student at the polytechnicum in Lausanne. It is so small we can’t even see it with our optic microscope.