FOR RELEASE: The City of Greeley Museums has a policy. If items in its collection need to be removed because they don’t meet the museum’s mission, staff must first seek another museum to accept the items. If another museum cannot be found, staff must find an organization or business with an educational mission to take them.
Because of this policy, an unforeseen friendship was born.
Tom Mattimore has been making historically authentic footwear since 1988. A decade later, when he moved to Laramie in 1998, he began teaching the craft of historic shoe making. From bark tanned leather to square heel nails, his business uses original artifact shoes and boots to recreate them for use in living history museums across the nation.
This is how the friendship between the City of Greeley Museums and Mattimore began. The museum’s collections had grown beyond its capacity and outside of their core mission. This included storage of items the museum could never use, including the antique shoe-making equipment.
On Monday, March 27, the City of Greeley Museums donated shoe making items to Mattimore’s school, including an antique leather buffing machine, shoe stitching machine, antique Auto-Soler, and an antique shoe finisher machine, as well as numerous shoe stretchers, lasts, shoeshine kits, insoles, shoe welts, half soles, heels, laces, and various shoe repair magazines.
“We looked at all of the items in storage and realized we weren’t using our resources in a way that made sense,” said Curator of Collection Sarah Saxe.
This particular donation of shoe shop items was accepted in 1992 with the hope that Centennial Village, 1475 A St. in Greeley, would someday have a working shoe shop as part of its living history demonstrations. As time passed and budget priorities changed, staff realized that building a shoe shop would not be possible and the shoe equipment was left unused and in storage.
With no plans to display the items, they took up much needed artifact storage space and after an extensive search, it was decided that Mattimore’s active shoe shop would be an ideal place to donate the equipment.
“Now these items will be used, as originally intended when donated, and the fine craft of custom historic shoe making will be preserved for generations to come,” says Saxe.
“It [the craft of historic shoe making] won’t be forgotten. It won’t be thrown in the trash like so much of America’s industrial history has been. So much of our history from the late 19th and 20th century has been ignored, thrown on the ash heap of history but it was the work of thousands and thousands of Americans. The shoe industry was totally American,” said Mattimore. “With this donation, I’ll be able to pass that tradition along.”
According to Saxe, Mattimore has a personal goal to pass his craft to the next generation so that these skills don’t get lost. His educational classes complement the museum’s mission to preserve and share Weld County’s history.
The City of Greeley Museums has four facilities, Centennial Village, the Meeker Home Museum, the Greeley History Museum, and the White-Plumb Farm Learning Center with a mission to preserve and interpret the history of the Colorado high plains region with emphasis on the City of Greeley and Weld County. For more information about the City of Greeley Museums, visit GreeleyMuseums.com.
For more information, contact:
Sarah Saxe, Curator of Collections