Phyllis Magidson, Curator of Costumes and Textiles Department asked me to prepare the boots to be displayed at the upcoming exhibition, Rebel Women. I was assigned to put the right amount of tissues inside the boots to soften the creases. I worked on two pairs of boots, a red satin pair with ribbons in front and a pink satin pair with blue silk lining.
These boots sizes would be contemporary women's size 1. Ankles of red pair were very thin, like less than 2 inches diameter, and the widest part of the sole was about 2 inches. Even so, Billy DeGregorio, a PhD candidate who was on site as part of the curatorial team, mentioned that these boots were not considered very small at the time in the 19th century.
The first pair of boots I worked on had shoe laces all the way down the front, so it was easier to stuff the paper just by loosening the laces.
However, the second pair, the pink pair, had laces only on the sides. Just by looking at the boots, there was no way I could insert my hand into the small 6-inch ankle of this boot. Phyllis, with 38 years of experience in the Costumes and Textiles department, of course knew this would be the case. So she brought hemostat and bone burnisher for me to use. These tools came in handy and I was able to stuff the paper effectively and evenly inside the boot with minimal contact without adding any pressure to the boot.
Only the left side of each pair was displayed. I am honored that I was assigned to place the boots for display. When each boot was placed in the right spot with the right angle, the art handler marked the base of the display case around the boot with masking tape exactly where the boot was placed, moved the boot, cut a transparent mylar in the exact shape of the boot sole, placed the moire where the boot was to be placed, and I put the boot back on the mylar.
Since the sole of the red boot was not very stable, small pins were placed on the base of the display case to prevent the boot from tilting. The Manager of Exhibition Installation, Lee Berman, handled this issue. Finally, the bonnet, the transparent acrylic cover for the display case, was placed over the boot. One of the registrars, Miranda Hambro, held the bonnet while one of the art handlers secured the edge by placing screws with a (non-electrical) screwdriver silently.
Rebel Women is planned to be on view until January 2019 at the Museum of the City of New York. The boots will be rotated, which means that other boots will replace those currently on display half way through the show.