Objectives and Magic

This project is busting at the seams with ideas and everyone I talk to has something new and exciting to add.  It’s fantastic that there is so much support and enthusiasm.  But this wild beast needs taming, or we risk spending the next 9 months discussing all of our fabulous ideas.  So, Jess and I have started to tackle “The Plan”, through which we hope to pin down what we are able to achieve, how much it will cost, who’s going to do it and when it needs to be done by.  The lists of objectives and tasks are growing rapidly and it is going to be quite some Gantt chart!

I have also spent much of my time with my nose stuck in a book. My favourite topic at the moment is related to magic.  I’m exploring the way that a top hat makes a man in a suit become a gentleman and the bride’s veil changes a girl into a woman.  Headwear transforms a person and very publically declares the wearer’s new status, often with rigidly set rules particularly in military, legal, religious and educational structures.  Footwear makes a different kind of change on a person, more personal and intimate.  In fairy tales and stories footwear often reveals the true nature of a person, and sometimes this results in a gruesome demise.  I’m thinking here, of course, of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes.

I’m also preoccupied with trying to understand why we want new things.  Shopping for shoes fulfils a deep desire, admittedly for some more than others!  But why?  What drives us to want new things to adorn ourselves?  Why do beautiful shoes bewitch us?  I came across a wonderful idea in the Journal of Material Culture that could go some way to explain it.  “Parallels can be drawn between magic and enchantment of advertising campaigns… and the belief in the magic of objects such as amulets and charms…” (Jude Hill The Story of the Amulet, 2007).  I will definitely be discussing this with staff at the PRM over coffee next week.  I’m sure we can find some shoe related, magic objects.

About Aimée Payton

I have worked in the Department of Eastern Art at the Ashmolean for over 5 years and I am very excited about being given the opportunity to work with museums across the county on this project. As Collections Access Officer I will research headwear and footwear in museums and collections in the whole of Oxfordshire, curate an exhibition at The Oxfordshire Museum and work with Education teams and community groups to create an exhibition at the Museum of Oxford.
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