Taking History Outside the Museum – Opinions Please!

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Vivienne Westwood exhibit some of their vintage shoes in the Conduit Street store window for a Fashion Night Out event. Image courtesy Vivienne Westood Ltd.

What do you think about museums?

That might seem an odd question, I bet almost everyone reading this has been to a museum in their life time. Perhaps you frequent you local museum often, take a special trip for new exhibitions, appreciate their air-con when on holiday or remember seeing the dinosaurs on a school trip when you were young. But, what do you really think about them? Are they something you get excited about? Or a place which only enters your thoughts on a rainy day?

How about with regards to fashion? Do you imagine them full of dusty old clothes from the Victorian ere, irrelevant today? Recently there has been something of a shift in the way fashion and museums relate. There have been more current fashion exhibitions such as the Valentino exhibit on right now at Somerset House, the Ballgowns at the V&A and the Christian Louboutin exhibition at Design museum. The exhibition may seem a little more current but they are still being held in traditional museum contexts. In contrast to this there are some exhibitions which are bursting out of the box so to speak. The Chanel exhibition at Harrods, Vivienne Westwood shoes at Selfridges. Would you feel more inclined to visit an exhibition if it were in a more accessible location? Do you think it seems less formal holding an exhibition in a retail space? Would it seem more fun perusing displays as you would do on a clothes shopping trip rather than gazing at traditional museum cases?

I have included some photo’s here of some traditional and more edgy exhibition spaces. I would really like to know your thoughts.


The Sneaking into Fashion temporary exhibition hosted by Javari.co.uk, displayed the shoes in cases along the main walk way in convent garden making it easy for people to view as they shopped

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The Louboutin exhibition displayed the shoes in innovative ways, no glass cases here! Image via ibtimes.com.


The V&A recently acquired a set of Japanese Lolita fashion outfit to show the diverse trend in their ‘Kitty and the Bulldog’ exhibition, it is displayed amongst the traditional Japanese history collection.


A traditional museum display at Northampton Shoes museum however this display has bright and colourful information boards behind the shoes to give them context and tell a story


Northampton Shoe museum show a blown-up photo of Naomi Campbell taking her famous runway tumble in the Vivienne Westwood ‘Super elevated Gille’ shoes. Do you like to see the background to the shoe illustrated rather than just lots of text?

If you have any other thoughts or opinions on museums at all I’d like to hear them. Is there anything that puts you off visiting? Do you think museums should be there for education or entertainment?

Which of the displays above is your favourite and why?

19 thoughts on “Taking History Outside the Museum – Opinions Please!

  1. I love museums, but my husband hates them. I find all museums of any subject intriguing. I think they are a necessary part of travel to understand the history and culture of an area, and I think preservation of historical artifacts is key to inspiring future generations. Even the things we enjoy now will be nostalgia in 20 years, and rare relics in another 50, so I like to think that everything I have, and everything I choose is special since it represents not just what I like right now, but also the culture of the moment, I think the more we document our lives, the better it will be for future generations. I mean, even a hundred years from now, there will be people just like us, researching Vivienne Westwood and will find your blog a great read. So, it’s not just artifacts that need preservation, but information as well.

    • Also I think I like the lolita display the best, because I like museums that show the whole picture along with the item, so the use of the mannequins to show size and scale is awesome. Shoes alone are fascinating, but I think examples of them on the runway and people wearing them in society is even better. To see how these items work, not just to look at them as objects.

  2. I rather like the idea of the Javari exhibition, where it’s located in amongst ‘traffic’ of people, rather than being held somewhere out of the way. I think that will reach a lot of people who aren’t traditional museum-goers. I also like that ‘modern’ culture is included, at the end of the day, it’s still interesting to look at whether it is from 1920 or 2010. I’ve never really believed that just because something is old, it is so much more interesting to look at.

    I also like having the blown up images in the background instead of too much text-I think it looks great, like a magazine but with real articles popping out the pages. It’s always been a standing joke in our family about museum visiting on holiday, that Dad would take hours and hours to read every single thing (no matter how un-interesting) and we’d be waiting at the exit for him! I like to read brief descriptions but take in the actual piece on display.

    • Ha ha I should go with your Dad, I’m the same I want to read everything, now I have to take a quick photo and read it later or I get moaned at! x

  3. I love all the modern fashion exhibitions, and I do recognise that London is the best place for them, but I’d love it if we could have some up here! I’m a fan of the out-of-museum museums, especially in stores, as I really think retail theatre is something that will help keep bricks-and-mortar retail alive. God knows there’s not much else keeping its heart beating right now.

    My favourite is the hula hoops!

  4. I love museums and exhibitions, it’s a way of accessing the most sought after art and fashion. It enriches the mind and imagination. As a ex fashion student I have to many galleries and opening nights and loved everyone. I have taken inspiration for my work from the most random of objects, and created couture fashion pieces, which have also been shown at museums and galleries.
    I believe we should use them or we will loose them.some of my favourite exhibitions have been Dior Illustrated: Ren├® Gruau and the Line of Beauty and Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design, both amazing and very inspirational.

  5. I love museums – I must say I prefer them to exhibitions in retail spaces. For some reason if I go (for example) to a Selfridges exhibition I always feel on edge and expected not to linger but to go on and shop. Whereas that pressure isn’t there in a museum or gallery.

  6. I love the Naomi display, but I do love a museum too. However, I find the idea of having these “shows” outside of a museum very refreshing and hopefully they’d inspire more people to actually go to a full exhibit.

  7. I like to have both types of experiences either going to a museum or seeing an exhibition in an unusual setting, the main thing I want is it to be accessible and be able to understand or learn from it. When we went to Amsterdam we visited the Van Gogh museum (so busy it was ridiculous with a five second moment to view the Sunflowers painting) and we struggled with the language barrier to fully appreciate how amazing the Nightwatch painting was. I get the most out of going somewhere interactive, with a tour guide first taking us round explaining the history and exhibits before having chance to walk round again at my own leisure to re-look at. Years ago me and a friend visited the Tower of London just in time for the Beefeater Tour and there was so much we got out of the tour that we wouldn’t have if we’d walked round by ourselves.
    God, I hope this doesn’t sound like a load of waffle. xx

  8. i like it in museum settings much better, it gives it an official feel. i would put more time to aboard the information. when it is put next to shopping districts makes it feel like just busy decorations. and i would most likely ignore it, or i wouldn’t have came here just for the exhibition items. If i did go there for the exhibition only i would feel is not the appropriated place and other shoppers will get in the way and take away the whole experience.

  9. I’m a shoe lover Pearl, so I’d look at them anywhere x
    I like the idea of the hanging ones, but you wouldn’t be able to see them x

  10. Erm, musuem or shop exhibit, it doesn’t really matter to me as long as I see the stuff. But kudos to those who put more effort to mesmerize the supporters xxx

    Monday at 12:00am via mobile ┬À Like
    Fashion Pearls of Wisdom Thanks Alquin! Do you like to know stuff like when the design was first made, what collection it was with, what celebs might wear it etc or do u just like to stare lovingly at the shoes? X
    Monday at 12:03am ┬À Like ┬À 1

    Alquin Soriano Magpantay Fashion + gossip (lol) always go together and create magic! xxx
    Monday at 12:05am via mobile ┬À Unlike ┬À 1
    Alquin Soriano Magpantay …yes I’d love to know details xxx
    Monday at 12:05am via mobile ┬À Like
    Alquin Soriano Magpantay Ok ok, to tell you what I really wish is for:
    An exhibit that shows “made products” then a mannequin beside it with a fabric that allows you to create your own alterations or perhaps a sketch pad or a comment box at least. It could help the designer to interact more with supporters and marry new from vintage design. Erm ambitious much?! xxx

  11. I would like to see more modern shoes on display, im not really interested in history but id like to see Manolos and Loubies and learn a bit about the designer. I guess thats why i like street style blogs. i want to see fashion not dusty old things.

  12. I do enjoying going to exhibitions, I have not been to one in a couple months, but love attending museums. I like a bit of both entertainment as well as education the most, art appreciated on both sides. I love history & fashion so it doesn’t bother me if there is some history with the pieces. I guess what puts me off at any exhibit is when people beside me are talking so loud (not in a tour), once this random guy went off about speaking to this woman loudly of the artists and what he disliked, I thought they were together, but apparently not, haha! It wouldn’t be bothersome at unconventional exhibits like these. love these images, the Louboutin showcase looks nice! Happy new year! 🙂

  13. Hi Pearl!

    I think museums are great, and when we go on holiday we always try and visit the local ones. I think fashion really pulls people into museums. I live just outside of Durham, and I am a massive Vivienne Westwood fan, so was over the moon when her shoe exhibition visited The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle. This museum is quite a trek from my house and I wouldn’t normally visit it, but when the exhibition was there I went twice!!! The exhibition was fantastic and I think the Bowes museum was a great setting for it. The staff there even commented on the hustle and bustle of the place that the exhibition brought (they could spot the VW fans a mile off…all turning up in a pair of her shoes ha!). I think museums are interesting, but fashion injects new life into them, so I think there should be more exhibitions of that ilk to bring in the masses. I’m hoping to visit the V and A this year (i’ve always wanted to go!!!) so fingers crossed! Fashion is my favourite type of artifact ha!

    Kayleigh x

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